Elusive Snow Leopard captured in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP) for the first time.
Dorji Duba a senior forester along with Tshering Wangchuk also a forester set camera traps at about 4600 meters above sea level.
“I have dreamt of setting camera traps in the Black Mountain range since I joined the park seven years ago. This was my fourth attempt. Nature has always fascinated me and I want to do everything to protect it. I am happy that my perseverance has paid off. Now we know for sure that there are snow leopards in JSWNP as well,” said Dorji Duba, Senior Forester, JSWNP.
The camera traps had captured pictures of gorals, musk deer, Himalayan Serow, Golden Cat and Yellow throated martins as well.
So Far Jigme Dorji National Park was the only national park in Bhutan where snow leopard and tiger habitats overlap but with the recent finding of such similar overlaps in JSWNP, it is a great moment of pride for the team at Jigme Singye Wanghuck National Park, the Department of Forests and Park Services and WWF Bhutan as well.
“This is exciting news. It is a testament to the connectivity that the biological corridors provide to all animals. The presence of both of these big cats is a sign that the ecology in this area is healthy. The entire team has received a boost and are motivated to continue the great work that we are fortunate to do under wise and farsighted leaders such as His Majesty the King,” said Phento Tshering, Director of the Department of Forests and Park Services.
The park being centrally located, there is big probability of movement of snow leopards from the northern protected areas such as the Wangchuck Centennial National Park and Jigme Dorji National Park where snow leopards are abundantly found.
Discovering an additional home range for both snow leopards and tigers is a great win for conservation in Bhutan. This would most likely increase the number of snow leopards and tigers in the country.
“Such findings are a big conservation win and it gives us all the more reason to invest more to ensure that these species are protected. WWF is happy to be a part of the great conservation vision of Bhutan and its far sighted leaders,” said Dechen Dorji, Country Representative of WWF Bhutan.
It is yet to be ascertained whether the footage captured on the two camera traps are of the same snow leopard or of two different snow leopards. The park is also yet to confirm whether the animals are among the list of 96 snow leopards already recorded by the 2016 National Snow Leopard Survey.
Blue sheep is known to be the main prey species for snow leopards. But JSWNP has no record of blue sheep presence. Therefore, its presence in the park despite the lack of its main prey species is thought to be an indication of snow leopards embracing new habitat and prey base for its survival. Park officials speculate musk deer and goral to be the main prey base for the snow leopards in the park.
Snow leopards are regarded as indicator species of the health of mountain ecosystem. Its presence across the country perhaps is a sign that much of Bhutan’s high-mountain ecosystem is healthy.
Click here to read Dorji Duba’s accounts of his journey to the Black Mountain after 4 attempts over a period of 6 years.
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WWF Bhutan Program Office