Snow leopard, black-necked cranes named Ladakh's state animal, bird

New Delhi/Leh, Sep 1 (IANS): The Union Territory of Ladakh has declared snow leopard and black-necked cranes as its state animal and state bird, respectively, sending waves of joy among the conservation community.

The UT administration came out with a notification to this effect on Tuesday.

Both are iconic species, and have been attracting tourist regularly, especially the snow leopard at the Hemis National Park for which the tourists come in winters too. Black-necked cranes have a great cultural significance and find mention in the local folk stories and folk songs too.

The Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust has been working for snow leopards for more than three decades now. Thanks to their efforts, a number of home stays were started in the Hemis area leading to community being a stakeholder in the snow leopard conservation. Another centre is set up at Ulley in another part of Ladakh. While the administration has already restricted the number of tourists to the Hemis National Park on a given day, there is no such arrangement for Ulley.

Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust's Tsewang Namgail told IANS on phone from Leh that "just like there is a cap on number of people for Hemis, we need one for Ulley too".

Namgail said a rough estimate puts the snow leopard's numbers at 250-300 and there are 30-odd black-necked crane pairs.

According to World Wide Fund-India (WWF-India), a major threat to the successful breeding of black-necked crane is the damage to the eggs and chicks, caused by feral dogs, owned both by armed forces as well as by the local nomads. Another threat to the bird is the loss of their habitat, the human pressure on the wetlands, the primary habitat of cranes. For over one decade, along with the government agencies, the WWF-India has been working towards conservation of high altitude wetlands with black-necked crane as a priority species in Ladakh region.

Commending Ladakh's decision to select two threatened species as the state animal and state bird, Director, Wildllife and Habitats Programme at the WWF India Dipankar Ghosh said: "This notification will help create more awareness among the local people, government, staff, armed forces and tourists visiting Ladakh and Kargil."

Ghosh also said, it would be great if an inclusive conservation programme for these species is established as that would benefit the local communities and help in long term survival of these threatened species.



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