KATHMANDU, Oct 24: Nepal has been losing a number of snow leopards mostly to poaching and retaliatory killings, according to a recently published report of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network.
About 6 to 23 snow leopards fall the victim of poaching every year in Nepal, claimed the report.
However, authorities at the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservations (DNPWC) said poaching has decreased drastically due to effective monitoring.
“At the moment, we do not have the exact data on poaching. Our department, various district forest offices and Nepal Police all have only partial data, which haven't been merge together yet,” said Gopal Prasad Bhattari, officiating director general at the DNPWC.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has reported that the population of the already endangered snow leopards worldwide has declined by over 20 percent in the last 16 years. But the government authorities and conservationists are positive that its population has increased in Nepal due to success of various conservation projects.
However, the exact figure of snow leopards in the country remains unknown as their census has not been taken since 2009.
Along with unabated poaching, habitat loss and increasing conflict with communities have been threatening the existence of the already endangered cat. The TRAFFIC report estimates that 75 percent of the killings of snow leopard in Nepal are done in retaliation for attacks on livestock.
“Retaliatory killings resulting from human-snow leopard conflict is indeed one of the biggest threats to its conservation efforts,” said Dr Kanchan Thapa, conservation biologist at WWF Nepal. “Loss of prey in protected areas forces snow leopard to prey on livestock, resulting in retaliation from the locals who kill the endangered cat.”
According to him, upslope habitat shift and shift in tree line due to climate change have caused snow leopards to come into conflict with humans, who see them as a threat to livestock and their lives.
Nepal is one among the 12 countries to have habitat blocks for snow leopards. Its population is distributed along the northern frontier of the country.