Known for prioritizing gross national happiness over the acquisition of unbridled capitalism, the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, nestled in the rarefied air of the eastern Himalayas, is also making strides in the field of wildlife conservation. Earlier this year, the country reported an encouraging 27% increase in the number of wild tigers since 2015.* On September 16, the Bhutan National Snow Leopard Survey 2022-2023 confirmed a substantial increase in the population snow leopards, to 134 individuals, an increase of 39,5%. hundred out of 96 snow leopards recorded in 2015.
Speaking while releasing the results of the survey, Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Bhutan, Karma Tshering said that while the results confirm that Bhutan is a stronghold for snow leopards , “it is also an endangered species; The IUCN Red List designates the snow leopard as “vulnerable”. Without protection, this magnificent species could become extinct in the near future. (Kunsel)
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that it had upgraded the snow leopard's classification on the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species from "vulnerable" to "endangered" in September 2017 to the first time in 45 years, following a three-year evaluation. To be considered endangered, there must be fewer than 2 mature adult individuals in the wild, but experts now estimate there could be a total wild population of around 500 snow leopards, with some estimating that there could be as many as 4. Their elusive nature and remoteness from their preferred habitats, however, make a precise consensus difficult.
“Bhutan's second national survey covered more than 9 square kilometers of snow leopard habitat across the country's northern alpine landscape with 000 camera trap stations,” reported the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) .** “It found an overall density of 310 snow leopards per 1,34 square kilometers, which was comparatively higher in the west than in central and eastern Bhutan. Snow leopards have also been sighted in several new locations. With a vast expanse of suitable snow leopard habitat bordering India and China, the survey suggests that Bhutan can serve as a source population for snow leopards in the region. (WWF)
The notoriously solitary and heavily camouflaged snow leopard, sometimes nicknamed the "ghost of the mountains", is found in isolated mountain habitats in 12 countries in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan , Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Nomadic by nature, the snow leopard generally inhabits alpine and subalpine areas at altitudes between 3 and 000 meters. According to the Snow Leopard Trust, the species prefers "rough terrain consisting of cliffs, rocky outcrops and ravines." This type of habitat provides good cover and open views to help them find and sneak up on prey. (Snow Leopard Trust)
The diet of these almost mythical cats depends on their location, but snow leopards most commonly prey on wild goats and sheep, including the Himalayan blue sheep, Asian ibex, and argali. They are also known to occasionally hunt domestic livestock, which can bring them into conflict with human settlements.*** Snow leopards are threatened by habitat degradation, prey depletion, conflicts with humans, poaching and climate change.
Letro, deputy director of forests at the Department of Forestry and Park Services, noted that Bhutan's national conservation policy was active in wildlife preservation: "I think we have a very strong conservation policy and that we put a lot of conservation effort into it. Additionally, we implement many community conservation initiatives, making our community and local people guardians of the snow leopard. The national conservation policy contributes to the increase in the snow leopard population. (ANI)
The National Snow Leopard Survey 2022-2023 was carried out with financial support from the Bhutan For Life project, while WWF-Bhutan supported this effort by providing field equipment.
“The increase in snow leopard numbers is another important milestone in Bhutan’s conservation journey. This clearly demonstrates the government’s leadership and conservation ethos of upland communities. said Chimi Rinzin, Country Director of WWF-Bhutan. “WWF is fully aware of the challenges of increasing conflict and we will work to address this issue to safeguard the future of snow leopards while preserving the livelihoods of herding communities. » (WWF)
Isolated, landlocked and perched in the rarefied air of the eastern Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan, sandwiched between two political and economic powers that are India and China, is the last Vajrayana Buddhist country in the world. The ancient spiritual tradition is embedded in the very consciousness and culture of this remote country, where it has flourished with an unbroken history dating back to its introduction from Tibet by Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, in the eighth century.
Nearly 75 percent of Bhutan's population, some 770, identify as Buddhist, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center, with Hindus making up the majority of the remaining 000 percent. Most Buddhists in Bhutan follow either the Drukpa Kagyu or the Nyingma schools of Vajrayana Buddhism. Bhutan held its first elections as a constitutional monarchy in 25.
*Buddhist Bhutan marks International Tiger Day by reporting increase in wild tiger population (BDG)
**Formerly World Wildlife Fund, although this name is still used in the United States and Canada.
***New report shows snow leopards seriously threatened by poaching (BDG)