International Snow Leopard Day is annually observed across the globe on 23rd October to create awareness about the snow leopards and promote the conservation of the species and their natural habitat.
- On the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is listed as a species vulnerable to extinction.
i.During the first Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum held from 22-23 October 2013 in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, the 12 snow leopard range countries adopted the ‘Bishkek Declaration on the Conservation of the Snow Leopard’ and declared the 23rd October of every year as the International Snow Leopard Day.
ii.The first ever International Snow Leopard Day was observed on 23rd October 2014.
- The declaration has also declared the year 2015 as the International Year of the Snow Leopard.
12 snow leopard range countries:
Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Bishkek Declaration on the Conservation of the Snow Leopard:
i.The snow leopard’s range countries adopted the Bishkek Declaration on the Conservation of the Snow Leopard and endorsed a comprehensive, long term Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Conservation (GSLEP) Program.
ii.With the adoption of this Bishkek declaration, the snow leopard range countries have pledged to ensure a healthy ecosystem for the snow leopards and the people who live among them.
i.GSLEP is an initiative of the snow leopard range countries, which has agreed to cooperate to identify and secure at least 23 snow leopard landscapes by 2020.
ii.This is led by the snow leopard range countries with the support of various national and international organisations such as Snow Leopard Trust, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Global Tiger Initiative.
iii.Snow leopard Landscapes are the ecologically fragile zones that contain at least 100 breeding snow leopards and sufficient prey.
i.The snow leopards live in rugged mountain landscapes at heights of over 3,000 metres.
ii.According to the GSLEP, the global population of snow leopards as of 2019 is estimated to be around 4000 to 6500.
iii.Poaching and retaliatory killing, Habitat loss and fragmentation, Climate change, Human-wildlife conflict, Illegal wildlife trade are the threats faced by the snow leopards.
Efforts of Snow leopard conservation – India:
i.The government of Ladakh has declared the snow leopard as its state animal, to create public awareness about the status of snow leopards.
ii.The Government of Uttarakhand is set to establish India’s first Snow Leopard Conservation Centre in Uttarkashi Forest Division, Uttarakhand.
- The Centre will be built by the Uttarakhand Forest Department along with the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) as a part of the SECURE Himalayas, a 6-year project that started in 2017.