Bhutan’s Snow Leopard Population Soars

The National Snow Leopard Survey 2022-2023 supported by the Bhutan For Life project and WWF-Bhutan, reveals a remarkable 39.5% surge in snow leopard numbers since the country’s first survey in 2016.

The comprehensive survey, conducted with cutting-edge camera trapping technology, spanned over 9,000 square kilometers of snow leopard habitat across northern Bhutan.

The survey confirmed the presence of 134 snow leopards in Bhutan, marking a significant increase from the baseline count of 96 individuals recorded in 2016. This increase underscores the effectiveness of Bhutan’s conservation efforts and its commitment to preserving the habitats of these magnificent creatures.

Further, the survey revealed variations in snow leopard density across different regions of Bhutan. Western Bhutan, in particular, boasted a comparatively higher density of these elusive big cats. This regional variation underscores the need for tailored conservation strategies to ensure the continued growth of the snow leopard population.

One of the survey’s most remarkable findings was the capture of snow leopards in new locations, including the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and low-elevation regions of the Divisional Forest Office in Thimphu. This expansion of known snow leopard territories highlights Bhutan’s vital role as a stronghold for these endangered animals. Its vast and suitable snow leopard habitats, bordering India (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh) and China (Tibetan plateau), indicate that Bhutan can play a pivotal role as a source population for snow leopards in the region.

The International Union for Conservation for Nature (IUNC) Red List designates the snow leopard as Vulnerable, as without protection, this magnificent species could face extinction in the near future.

Bhutan has taken proactive steps to protect these majestic creatures, listing the snow leopard under Schedule I of the Forests and Nature Conservation Act 2023. Illegal acts against the species are treated as fourth-degree felonies.

The survey also revealed crucial information about snow leopards’ interactions with other large carnivores like tigers and common leopards. Additionally, it marked a new species record for Bhutan with the capture of a White-lipped deer/Thorold’s deer (Cervus albirostris) in Divisional Forest Office, Paro.

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