Researchers from the University of Kashmir recently captured four snow leopards (Panthera uncia) on camera in Kishtwar High Altitude National Park, Jammu and Kashmir.

Key highlights of the research: 

  • This discovery is significant as it marks the first photographic evidence of snow leopards in the region, proving their presence in Kishtwar NP.        
  • The researchers also discovered significant anthropogenic pressure as a result of livestock grazing at higher elevations in the habitat areas of snow leopards, leading to human-wildlife conflict.
  • The leopards avoid these livestock-grazing areas during summer (May-August).

Snow Leopard Population in India

  • According to the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) program, the estimated number of snow leopards in India is 718.
  • The maximum number of cats were estimated to be in Ladakh (477), followed by Uttarakhand (124), Himachal Pradesh (51), Arunachal Pradesh (36), Sikkim (21), and Jammu and Kashmir (9).
  • They occupy an area of around 1 lakh sq km of the higher Himalayan terrains in India.
  • India’s snow leopard count represents 10-15% of the global population, indicating its significance for global conservation efforts.

About the Kishtwar National Park:

  • Kishtwar NP is situated in the Chenab Valley region of Jammu and Kashmir, covering an area of 2,191 square kilometers.
  • Kishtwar, Doda, and Ramban together make up the UT’s Chenab Valley region.
  • The park spans across an altitude range of 1,800 to 6,000 meters above the Chenab River and below the Nagin Sheer glacier.
  • The park’s high passes link snow leopard populations and serve as a corridor for the trans-Himalayan and Himalayan regions to the worldwide snow leopard range, thus allowing gene movement, which is necessary for healthy populations.

Methodology adopted by researchers:

  • A team of scientists divided the study area into a grid of 5 × 5 km cells and deployed 40 camera traps at 57 locations within the park for one year from May 2022 to June 2023.
  • Cameras were strategically placed on natural trails, trail junctions, and ridge lines to maximize the probability of detecting animals.
  • Unique markings on the snow leopards’ coats allowed for individual identification, thus aiding the researchers in their population estimation.

Conservation Efforts:

  • Snow leopards are classified as ‘vulnerable‘ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), facing threats from free-ranging dogs, human-wildlife conflicts, and poaching.
  • Recent surveys led by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), along with the World Wide Fund for Nature-India and Nature Conservation Foundation, aim to bolster conservation efforts.
  • Focus on understanding snow leopard interactions with pastoral communities and assessing threats to the conservation and management of their habitat.


The discovery of snow leopards in Kishtwar National Park highlights the region’s ecological significance and the urgent need for conservation measures. Anthropogenic pressures, like livestock grazing, threaten their habitat and could lead to human-wildlife conflicts. With India hosting a significant portion of the global snow leopard population, concerted efforts for understanding their behavior and preserving their habitat are crucial for the species’ survival and biodiversity in the Himalayan landscape.

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