In order to protect the vulnerable wildlife species that come to a lower elevation in Himachal Pradesh during winters, the Lahul- Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, India has put a ban on car rallies in the Kibber wildlife sanctuary area of the Spiti valley.
This initiative is taken by keeping in mind the threat it may cause to the wildlife, especially to the state animal i.e. the snow leopard. Additional district magistrate, Gian Sagar Negi had issued a notification about this ban.
While speaking to Hindustan times, Sagar Negi stated that the local travel agencies used to organize these car rallies for tourists in the winters through the snow leopard landscape of Kibber wildlife sanctuary in the Spiti valley. Since snow leopard sightings itself are a major tourist attraction during winters, it can also become a substantial source of income for Spiti valley residents.
This year due to heavy snowfall, wild animals such as snow leopards, Himalayan serow, blue sheep, ibex and other high altitude animals have come down to lower levels in search of food.
Since February and March are the mating seasons for the snow leopards, the traffic through these landscapes will not only affect their procreation but will also disturb their natural habitat. Snow leopards are declared as vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Sagar Negi further stated that both the State and Central government have initiated wildlife conservation projects. The snow leopard habitat stretches from the Kibber wildlife sanctuary in Lahul and Spiti to Pangi in Chamba district. The leopards are usually seen in rugged terrains around the altitude between 9,800 feet and 17,000 feet.
According to last month’s survey released by the forest department, the number of snow leopards in the state is 73. This survey was conducted by the wildlife wing of the forest department and the Nature Conservation Foundation.
Since the wildlife wing began monitoring the snow leopards and initiated the snow leopard conservation project in 2006, their population in the valley has gradually increased.