The mythical ‘Grey Ghost’ in wild
As you know, the Snow Leopard, Panthera uncia (Felidae), restricted to the high mountains of Central Asia, is regarded as an Endangered species. In 2008 the total estimated population was 4,080-6,590 specimens. In India, the Hemis High Altitude National Park that extends over 3,350 sq. km in the northernmost district of Ladakh, is considered a reserve with an estimated population of 200-600 snow leopards.
Finding a snow leopard in the wild is often considered to be an absurd dream by most wildlife enthusiasts. Until very recently, the chance to encounter one in the wild even after extreme endeavor was decidedly uncertain. That was mainly due to the high degree of difficulty spotting them in their characteristic rocky terrain and their very low density of occurrence across their entire range.
But that changed when relatively frequent sightings began to be reported in winter by villagers and scientists from the northern parts of Hemis High Altitude National Park.
A survey in march 2014 covering 200 sq km of prime habitat revealed a very high concentration of 9 snow leopards and perhaps more significantly, the surveyed area is contiguous with a vast expanse of excellent habitat having very low anthropogenic pressure and relatively high prey density – surely home to a reasonable number of Snow Leopards.
If you are a wildlife enthusiast and one of your dreams is to observe a snow leopard in the wild, check out this article that tells you how to make it happen. With luck, you could also find other amazing species of wildlife, such as the Bharal (Pseudois nayaur), the Pallas’ cat (Felis manul), the Tibetan argali (Ovis ammon hodgsoni), Himalayan marmots (Marmota bobak), Dholes (Cuon alpinus), and Pikas (Ochotona roylei).
Locality: Hemis National Park, Ladakh, India (February, 2013)
Momma Leopard with her 5 week old cubs - (photos by Jose Cortes III / Asia to Africa Safaris)