As the world observes World Wildlife Day on Friday, there is no talks about the ambitious project to protect the highly endangered species of snow leopard that was formulated 12 years ago and subsequently shelved, as funds were not allocated for implementing the scheme in the Himalayan states of the country.
Alarmed over the depletion of the species, the Centre constituted a nine-member committee to draft the project for conservation of snow leopard sometime in 2005.
The Centre came out with the project, but the Planning Commission was reluctant to provide funds for this purpose and suggested that money should be utilised from the grants that had been allocated for the wildlife sector.
The five Himalayan states, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, are the abode of snow leopard. However, these states expressed inability to initiate conservation projects for the species out of their meagre resources.
According to preliminary survey few years ago, the number of snow leopards in the country was only 500. However, world over, the population of snow leopard that had declined to about 1000 in 1960s is estimated to have now increased to 3500.
In the Indian states, the species is found generally in the cold deserts above the treeline. It has been spotted in Ladakh (J&K) and Lahaul-Spiti (Himachal Pradesh).
Besides India, snow leopard is found in China, Bhutan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Burma, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan.
The habitat of the species has been disturbed with the ongoing road projects, particularly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the network of roads being laid by China in the mountain region.
Conservation of the species is generally confined to holding seminars and discussions. An international symposium on snow leopard was held at Srinagar 31 years ago in 1986 where concern of expressed on falling number of the species. Thereafter, a national workshop in which wildlife departments of the five Himalayan states participated was organized at Jammu and Leh in 2004 and 2005 respectively by the Ministry of environment and forests. Wildlife experts expressed concern on the issue of interference of human beings in the habitat of snow leopard.