Why this project?

The high-altitude areas of the Himalaya support a unique wildlife assemblage and has been given relatively less attention from the purview of wildlife conservation as close to 2,00,000 sq. Km of the unrelenting high altitudes, wildlife, including threatened species, primarily occur outside the protected areas. In addition, these regions also represent a vast landscape that support important marginal argo-pastoralists and traditional pastoral economies and lifestyles. As a consequence of this conservation practices here need to be reenvisioned through participatory and landscape-based approach. It was in view of all these concerns that Project Snow Leopard was conceived.

A landscape based approach

The project is a landscape-based strategy for the High altitude Himalaya, an area where wildlife values are pervasive, and so is the human use. This leads to a large human-wildlife interface which cannot be managed by the protected area centric approach alone. There are major and emerging threats to biodiversity in the region which include land for infrastructure development, harmful practices of mass tourism and production sectors and an increasing livestock grazing pressure on rangelands. The landscape-based strategy recognizes the need to participatively plan at scale, and conserve with the support of all stakeholders, that include the local community and government agencies active in the region.

Which landscapes?

As the project aims to work through a participatory and landscape-based approach in order to conserve the snow leopard and its habitats, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change has implemented the Project Snow Leopard in six states and Union Territories of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Each of these six states and Union Territories have been asked by the MoEFCC's PSL Steering Committee to propose at least one PSL Landscape in each state with the primary criteria being that they should be large areas with a significant population of snow leopards (rather than just a few individuals). These areas could include both protected and unprotected areas. Himachal Pradesh identified the Upper Spiti Landscape in 2010 and a management plan is under implementation there while other states are still in the process of identifying these landscapes. Meanwhile, the SECURE Himalaya project has identified six landscapes that follow similar principles for landscape level conservation that complement the conservation activities under Project Snow Leopard.

Who is involved?

To help transform this endeavour into a success, the project is being spearheaded at various levels.

National Level

The MoEFCC, apart from the representation from its ministry officials and the Defence/Paramilitary, has co-opted governmental and non-governmental research institutions, such as the Wildlife Institute of India, Nature Conservation Foundation and Worldwide Fund for Nature as knowledge partners to assist in the project. Furthermore, the National Steering Committee also incorporates most of the above expertise.

State Level

The project is anchored in the Forest and Wildlife Division of the State Forest Departments. A few of the key stakeholders in the project include state line departments like Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Rural Development, Tourism and Ecotourism Society, Education, Handloom and Handicraft Department, State Medicinal Plant Board amongst others.

Local Level

Local administration, Panchayati Raj institutions, community institutions such as Self Help Groups, Van Panchayats, Biodiversity Management Committees, Civil Society Organisations and Cooperatives along with Religious institutions help in this flagship conservation project.

How is it being implemented?

In order to successfully implement the conservation practises underlined under the project, having a clear path and a detailed plan of action becomes crucial. Thus keeping in mind the needs for such a unique project, following are its 10 objectives

Facilitating a landscape-level approach to wildlife conservation

Especially because significant wildlife populations occur outside Protected Areas.

Rationalize the existing protected area network and improve protected area management

This will facilitate biologically and socially meaningful demarcation and zonation of existing protected areas and the new surrounding landscapes under the landscape-based approach. Will strengthen management plans and help develop frameworks for participatory conservation management and provisioning of resources.

Develop a framework for wildlife conservation outside protected areas and promote ecologically responsible development-

Will assist in conservation linked income generation and incentive programmes for local communities while taking initiatives for preserving and promoting local people’s tolerance towards wildlife.

Encourage focused conservation and recovery programs for endangered species such as the snow leopard

Will encourage scientifically robust research (ecological and social), and the use of this knowledge for formulating and implementing participatory, science-based conservation programs at local and regional levels.

Promote stronger measures for wildlife protection and law enforcement

Will support initiatives for enhancing the capacity of the wildlife department staff and local communities to encourage stringent wildlife law enforcement by means of training, equipment, and innovative community-based protection measures.

Promote better understanding and management of human-wildlife conflict

Will aid ecological and social research to enhance the local understanding of human-wildlife conflicts, and encourage development of knowledge-based frameworks for flexible and locally appropriate conflict resolution programmes.

Restore degraded landscapes

Will help in designing and implementing restoration programmes in degraded areas that have the potential to be restored. Those restoration projects whose needs are adequately justified and are designed through extensive scientific research will be supported.

Promote a knowledge-based approach to conservation and an adaptive framework for wildlife management

The project will both encourage and support high quality scientific research and monitor wildlife and human ecology. It will enable management frameworks that are not only adaptive but also periodically incorporate ecological and social feedback into management planning.

Reduce anthropogenic pressures

The flagship project will work on supporting participatory programmes that will aim at reducing human pressures on natural resources by providing alternate income sources to local communities and create value addition to locally produced the goods and services. It will also help formulate and implement appropriate livestock grazing policies within and outside Protected areas to harmonize the objectives of pastoralism with those of wildlife conservation.

Promote conservation education and awareness

Will support education and awareness programmes for wildlife conservation targeted at local communities, children, as well as other institutions including Gram Sabhas, EDCs, defence forces, road construction agencies, travel agents, etc.

While all these macro and micro interventions are formulated and implemented, SECURE Himalaya will work parallel to PSL in order to complement the  diverse conservation and participatory practices. 

Budget

In response to the implementation of a huge project like PSL the Government of India has ensured the allocation of 3% of its annual wildlife budget to  Project Snow Leopard. 

Project Snow Leopard

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has implemented the Project Snow Leopard project in six states and Union Territories of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.