Dehradun:Increased human activities, lack of food, abrupt climatic changes have forced snow leopards to change their base from lower hilly regions to high mountain ranges of Himalayas.

As proved by the pictures captured by Wild life institute of India (WII), there are hardly any snow leopards at three thousand feet high mountain ranges. Within six months only a single snow leopard has been noticed.

To keep a tab on the movement of this endangered species of the cat family, the WII scientists have started installing cameras on mountain ranges of five to six thousand metre height. Till date 15 cameras have been installed at several locations.

It is estimated that there are 500 leopards all across the country. Snow leopards mostly inhibit the mountainous region of Uttarakhand like Nanda Devi National Park, Biosphere Reserve Park, Valley of Flowers, Gangotri National Park, Kedarnath Wild life sanctuary and other Himalyan region. They are counted among endangered species for they are hunted for their soft fur which is in great demand in international market.

As a part of the 'Project Snow Leopard', WII in association with the forest department of Uttarakhand placed automated cameras called Camera Traps to capture photographs of wild animals. On December, 2010 they installed cameras at several sites like Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve Park, Valley of Flowers, Dharsi, Malari and other region of Himalayan ranges which are situated at more than three thousand feet height.

Under the Snow Leopard project, 13, 885 square kilometer area has been earmarked which is 23 per cent of the total land area of Uttarakhand.

Senior WII scientist, Dr S Satyakumar believes that snow leopards are not visible on mountains which are three thousand metre high. “We are trying to search this endangered species of animals in five to six thousand metre high Himalayan ranges.  Till now 15 Camera traps have been installed and 10 more will be placed at several sites," said Satyakumar.

Former Chief Caretaker of wild life, Anand Singh said, “Snow leopards are not getting proper food. The predators are finding it difficult to hunt their prey. If they are found at higher mountain ranges then it is for sure that they have shifted their base."

JPN/Bureau