Thursday, December 21, 2006

Snow leopard skins recovered in India

By Pradeep Sharma

Kathua, Dec.19 (ANI): Police in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua District recovered two snow leopard skins from two persons at Lakhanpur.

The two arrested persons have been identified as Mohammed Din and Ghulam Hussain and were trying to smuggle the leopard skins out of the State. They were booked under the Forest Act and Wildlife Act.

"The two skins are of snow leopards, which are rare, and as an endangered species, come under the Wildlife Act. Probably the skins were being transported to other States," said J P Singh, Superintendent of Police, Kathua.

The snow leopard is mostly found in the Ladakh region.

"These snow leopards are mostly found in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir instead of Kathua or Jammu Districts," said Imtayaz Ahmed Lone, Chief Warden, Wildlife Jammu-Kathua East.

The alleged smugglers were paid Rupees 2,000 each to smuggle the skins out of State.

The minimum punishment for such an act is a jail term of three years and a fine of Rupees 25,000.

There are just about 600 snow leopards in India, the third-largest population of the wild cats after China and Mongolia. Around half of these 600 inhabit Kashmir 's Himalayan mountain range at altitudes of about 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) in the mountainous regions of Ladakh and upper stretches of Himachal Pradesh.

The Snow Leopard, however, which is also known as the Ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of central and south Asia

Well known for its beautiful fur, the snow leopard has a soft grey coat with ringed spots and rosettes of black on brown. Its tail is heavy with fur and the bottom of its paws are covered with fur for protection against the snow and cold

Weighing up to 75 kilograms, the snow leopard can be distinguished from other similar species by its proportionately longer tail, which helps it to maintain its balance on the rugged terrain.

Snow leopards are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever meat they may find. They often kill animals three times their size, including domestic livestock.

Snow leopards inhabit a rugged mountainous region of approximately 1,230,000 square kilometres, which extends through 12 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The estimated global snow leopard population is between 3,500 and 7,000 individuals. (ANI) Endangered-snow-leopard-skins-recovered-in-Kathua

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