The International Snow Leopard Day was celebrated in Drugyel Higher Secondary School, Paro, yesterday. The day also paid a special tribute to a 28-year-old forester at Wangchuck Centennial National Park (WCNP) who succumbed to altitude sickness while setting up systematic camera traps.
WCNP was conducting a camera trap set up to study snow leopard and its prey base survey and identify the individual snow leopard, and spatial distribution and a kind of movement they make, etc.
According to the Special Advisor to the National Environment Commission, Dasho Paljor J Dorji, special tribute is being paid to the foresters who perform their duty under the harsh climatic conditions, and especially to pay respect to the young forester who died about a week ago.
“Foresters in Bhutan work hard in unpleasant climate and I am saddened by the news,” Dasho Paljor J Dorji said.
A forestry official with Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation of Environment (UWICE), Karma Thukten, said the deceased forester was an admirable man and was dedicated to his work.
While foresters in the country are not trained deal with such harsh climate, however, they are provided with basic first aid kit while venturing in high altitudes. Karma Thukten said that the foresters lack the apparatus required to overcome such difficulties in such harsh environment.
“The office lack special equipment to ward off the travel fatigue in the ultra thin mountain air,” he added.
Forest offices in the country lack emergency equipment, like oxygen bag or altitude acclimatization tools, except the basic ones. Those who venture into high altitude are not outfitted with required equipment to battle harsh high altitude.
Cordyceps collectors are also at the risk of dying from altitude sickness as most of them have to climb high up in the mountain where air temperature drops and low levels of oxygen make it difficult to breathe and adapt to the environment.
Over the years, the WCP team has been conducting many systematic cameras trapping of snow leopard to understand the snow leopard and its behaviour. Through the scheme, the park officials could determine the presence of healthy population of the elusive snow leopard in Bhutan, and was able to study the behaviour of both snow leopard and Tibetan wolf.
As per the reports, there are approximately 2000 snow leopards in the world. Bhutan is one of the 12 countries in Asia that harbour the cat’s population in its natural habitat. It is also estimated that about 100-200 leopards are expected to be surviving in the wild.