Novel New Year gift: Park gets snow leopards

Himalayan News Service

Shimla, January 1:

A nature park on the outskirts of this hill resort has got a pleasant New Year gift — rare snow leopards and Himalayan wolves.

“A pair of snow leopards and six Himalayan wolves have been brought from the Padmaja Naidu Zoo in Darjeeling (West Bengal) to the Kufri nature park under an animal exchange programme,” said AK Gulati, the state wildlife chief. Experts say the highly endangered snow leopard is so rare that in Himachal Pradesh only 30 such wild cats are left. The snow leopard falls in the red list of endangered species in the world.

The half a dozen wolves join a lone wolf at the Kufri park, some 15 km from here. Recent DNA studies suggest that the Himalayan wolf could be the oldest wolf species in the world. A team of experts had gone to fetch the animals from Darjeeling. Under the animal exchange programme, the team carried with it some equally rare animals — five colourful monal pheasants and a pair of Himalayan deer, said officials.

Some four years ago, the Kufri nature park had a lone female snow leopard but it died due to respiratory problems. The new set of animals were to arrive here almost a year ago but the Indian Air Force had reportedly asked Rs 250,000 for the long journey. Due to lack of funds the exchange programme was shelved.