Snow leopard population outside Protected Area of Dolpa unveiled

Posted on April, 19 2024

19th April 2024, Kathmandu – A systematic camera trap survey has established the snow leopard population in eastern Dolpa in areas outside of Shey Phoksundo National Park (SPNP). The survey which covered Chharka Tangsong, Kaike and Dolpo Buddha Rural Municipalities has indicated a population of 30 snow leopards in the area.

The camera traps were deployed in altogether 66 locations by 33 citizen scientists, 7 DFO staffs and 3 students for 60 days covering nearly 2000 km2 in the trans Himalayan alpine belt. The population density was estimated at 1.5 snow leopards per 100 km2. This differs slightly from earlier survey within SPNP that estimated density of 2.2 per 100 km2 with abundance of 90 snow leopards.

This survey has for the first time provided robust evidence of good density of Snow Leopards outside PAs. The survey will contribute to understanding Nepal’s snow leopard population and has further established the need for strong conservation efforts out of PAs. We congratulate DFO Dolpa on this accomplishment and are proud to have contributed alongside the researchers, citizen scientists, indigenous local communities, and WWF Nepal” said Mr. Shiva Kumar Wagle, Director General of DoFSC.

Around 42% of the 30,000 km2 of Snow Leopard habitat in Nepal falls outside of Protected Areas. These areas are crucial both as habitats and as corridors. The critical habitat of eastern Dolpa connects snow leopard populations of three protected areas of Nepal (SPNP, Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve and Annapurna Conservation Area) and two snow leopard conservation landscapes (western and central).

Globally, Snow Leopards are one of the most understudied species among the big cats due to their large and remote geographical range. The Nepal government has given a high priority to the study of this elusive species and continues to contribute to their understanding and conservation on a global scale. WWF Nepal is proud to support the government and partner with local communities in this endeavor for the long-term survival of snow leopards” said Dr. Ghana Shyam Gurung, Country Representative of WWF Nepal. “WWF Nepal will continue our community-based conservation efforts to ensure that Snow Leopards and local communities thrive together”, he added.

This survey was led by the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation and DFO Dolpa with financial and technical support from WWF.

WWF Nepal would like to thank WWF UK, WWF Germany, WWF Finland, WWF Switzerland, WWF US, WWF Belgium, and WWF Canada for their continued support in snow leopard conservation through the years, including for this survey. 

Snow leopard captured on camera traps during the survey.
Snow leopard captured on camera traps during the survey.
© Govt of Nepal/DoFSC/WWF Nepal