Kathmandu, January 19
Ministers from snow leopard range countries arrived here today to participate in the meeting of Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme.
At the invitation of the government of Nepal, GSLEP programme steering committee, which comprises environment and forest ministers or their nominees from all snow leopard range countries, will hold its second meeting tomorrow.
Prior to the Steering Committee meeting, a two-day Management Planning Stocktaking Workshop was held on 17 and 18 January in Kathmandu.
According to Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, forest and wildlife ministers from Russia, Kyrgyzstan, China and Afghanistan have arrived in Kathmandu. However, Pakistani minister will arrive in Kathmandu on Friday as his flight was cancelled.
Similarly, forest secretaries from Bhutan,Uttarakhand State of India and directors general from related departments of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have arrived.
Joint secretary at the forest ministry and member secretary of programme organising committee Dr Maheshwor Dhakal said ministerial meeting would set the agenda for the meeting of head of delegations on snow leopard conservation. The meeting is scheduled to be held in September in Kyrgyzstan.
Currently, more than 23 percent of Nepal’s total land area has been designated as protected areas, while community-managed forests have a large share in ecosystem management.
According to WWF snow leopard (Uncia uncia) has been categorised as an endangered species by The World Conservation Union since 1972 and is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. While Nepal is a signatory to CITES since 1973, the species is further protected under the country’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973.
At present, there are an estimated 3,500 to 7,000 snow leopards across the world. Of this, an estimated 300 to 500 are found in Nepal. Prime habitat in Nepal is characterised by steep, broken mountainous habitat in alpine and sub-alpine zones (3,000m to 5,400m) where vegetation is sparse.
Snow leopards are threatened in Nepal particularly as a result of habitat loss, loss of prey, and conflict with herders. To a lesser extent, snow leopards in Nepal also face threats from hunting and the sale of pelt in fur trade, and bones and body parts for use in traditional Asian medicine.
Snow leopards have been sighted or documented in Nepal’s mountain protected areas from Kangchenjunga Conservation Area in the east to Shey Phoksundo National Park in the west. However, the country’s largest known populations are believed to occur in Dolpa, Mugu, Manang, Mustang, and Taplejung districts.
Snow leopard, known for its beautiful, thick fur, has a white, yellowish or soft gray coat with ringed spots of black on brown. The markings help camouflage it from prey. With their thick coats, heavy fur-lined tails and paws covered with fur, snow leopards are perfectly adapted to the cold and dry habitats in which they live.
A version of this article appears in print on January 20, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.