India warns of increasing vulnerability of snow leopard
New Delhi, Oct 25 (Prensa Latina) The increasing vulnerability of the snow leopard, which is under pressure from habitat destruction and poaching, worries conservationists in India.
As climate change forces snow leopards to move to lower altitudes, these animals face new threats. Sudden episodes of heavy snowfall in the Himalayas due to current global warming force their encounter with other animals displaced by rising temperatures, including the common leopard.
The referred animal lives at a height of between 3,000 and 6,000 meters, but the forest officer of the Uttarkashi division Sandeep Kumar told The Third Pole portal that they descend lower when it snows heavily in winter. Their prey - bharal or blue sheep, musk deer, Himalayan tar, and ibex - must move downhill in search of food. They are distributed among Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with estimates that vary between 3,500 and 7,000 specimens.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the snow leopard as vulnerable, and this quality increases as the animal's range overlaps with that of the common leopard, due to climate change. Both felines have the same prey base.
There are 516 snow leopards in India, according to S. Sathyakumar, a scientist at the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India.
Aparna Pandey, Uttarakhand project officer, said the sighting of the animal at lower heights means that climate change is affecting its habitat and forcing it to move downhill in search of food and water.
The annual mean surface temperature in the Himalayas has risen 1.5 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era, according to the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative.
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