Bhutan's Snow Leopard Numbers Soar by 39.5%
The National Snow Leopard Survey 2022-2023, backed by the Bhutan For Life initiative and WWF-Bhutan, has disclosed an astonishing 39.5% increase in the snow leopard population compared to the inaugural survey conducted in 2016.
This extensive survey, utilizing state-of-the-art camera trapping technology, encompassed over 9,000 square kilometers of snow leopard habitat in northern Bhutan.
The survey has verified the presence of 134 snow leopards in Bhutan, a notable rise from the initial count of 96 individuals recorded in 2016. This upturn highlights Bhutan's effective conservation endeavours and its unwavering dedication to safeguarding the habitats of these magnificent creatures.
Moreover, the survey unveiled variations in snow leopard population density across different regions of Bhutan. Particularly, western Bhutan exhibited a relatively higher density of these elusive big cats. This regional divergence underscores the necessity for tailored conservation approaches to ensure the continual growth of the snow leopard populace.
One of the most remarkable discoveries from the survey was the identification of snow leopards in new locations, including the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and lower-altitude areas of the Divisional Forest Office in Thimphu. This expansion of known snow leopard territories emphasizes Bhutan's pivotal role as a stronghold for these endangered animals. Its extensive and suitable snow leopard habitats, adjacent to India (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh) and China (Tibetan plateau), indicate that Bhutan can serve as a crucial source population for snow leopards in the region.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the snow leopard as Vulnerable, signifying that without protection, this splendid species could face extinction in the foreseeable future.
Bhutan has taken proactive measures to safeguard these majestic creatures by including the snow leopard in Schedule I of the Forests and Nature Conservation Act 2023. Acts of illegality against this species are treated as fourth-degree felonies.
Additionally, the survey unveiled vital insights into the interactions between snow leopards and other large carnivores such as tigers and common leopards. Furthermore, it established a new species record for Bhutan with the documentation of a White-lipped deer/Thorold's deer (Cervus albirostris) in the Divisional Forest Office, Paro.