The Union Territory of Ladakh has declared the snow leopard and the black-necked crane as its state animal and state bird, respectively, sending waves of joy among the conservation community.
The UT administration came out with a notification of this effect on Tuesday.
Both snow leopards and black-necked cranes are iconic species and have been attracting tourists regularly. Especially the snow leopard at the Hemis National Park, for which the tourists come even in winters. Black-necked cranes have a great cultural significance and are mentioned in the local folk stories and folk songs.
The Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust has been working for snow leopards for more than three decades now. Thanks to their efforts, a number of homestays were started in the Hemis area leading to the community being a stakeholder in the snow leopard conservation. Another centre has been set up at Ulley in another part of Ladakh. While the administration has already restricted the number of tourists to the Hemis National Park on a given day, there is no such arrangement for Ulley.
Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust’s Tsewang Namgail told IANS on the phone from Leh that “just like there is a cap on the number of people for Hemis, we need one for Ulley too”.
Namgyal said a rough estimate puts the snow leopard’s numbers at 250-300, and there are 30-odd black-necked crane pairs.
According to World Wide Fund-India (WWF-India), a significant threat to the successful breeding of black-necked cranes is the damage to the eggs and chicks caused by feral dogs owned by armed forces as well as by the local nomads. Another threat to the bird is the loss of their habitat, the human pressure on the wetlands, the primary habitat of cranes. For over one decade, along with the government agencies, the WWF-India has been working towards conserving high altitude wetlands with the black-necked crane as a priority species in the Ladakh region.
Commending Ladakh’s decision to select two threatened species as the state animal and state bird, Director, Wildlife and Habitats Programme at the WWF India Dipankar Ghosh said: “This notification will help create more awareness among the local people, government, staff, armed forces and tourists visiting Ladakh and Kargil.”
Ghosh also said it would be great if an inclusive conservation programme for these species is established as it would benefit the local communities and aid the long term survival of these threatened species.
The above article has been published from a wire agency with minimal modifications to the headline and text.