One method being used to track and estimate population numbers of the snow leopard is through cameras placed at strategic points - locations where the cat is a suspected habitué. The method is elaborately termed as Camera-trapping in the Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture (SECR) framework. This is a reliable way to document the presence of rare and elusive species. It is a challenge, however, to capture images of the snow leopard under inadequate lighting conditions, such as at dawn, dusk or in the night. Also the cameras would need good resolving power to provide very high quality images. The cats are individually identified by matching the rosette patterns on the pelt. The current project has deployed 40 Reconyx HC500, procured in Mar.ch 2018, with the Snow Leopard Trust bringing in additional 30 cameras. Two camera models are in use: Reconyx HC500 and Reconyx RM55.
Estimating snow leopard presence in Himachal Pradesh
The dwelling and foraging terrain of the snow leopard mainly occurs above the tree line contour of the greater and trans-Himalayas. The proposed project - Estimating snow leopard and its wild prey population in Himachal Pradesh - will include areas along both banks of rivers Chenab, Bhaga and Chandra in Lahaul subdivision; Spiti river in Spiti subdivision; rivers Spiti and Sutlej in Kinnaur District; Ravi and Chenab in Chamba District and; Beas, Parvati, Tirthan and Sainj in Kullu District. These are the general swathes but final terrain selection will be based on physical and visual evidence of presence and other reconnaissance surveys.
In Lahaul, the proposed project area covers Chandratal wild life sanctuary (WLS); in Spiti, Kibber WLS and Pin Valley national park (NP); in Kinnaur, Rakchham Chhitkul WLS, Rupi-Bhaba WLS and Lippa-Asrang WLS and; in Kullu, Great Himalayan NP, Sainj WLS, Tirthan WLS and Manali WLS.