Before this project, Phuchung worried that such local insight of Lachen’s mountains will be lost with the rapid changes in lifestyles that have accompanied the fast pace of development in North Sikkim. But as work progressed, other community members—including young people—regularly brought Phuchung new information on snow leopard signs and sightings, which also informed his work. Today, he has a team of five young men who are eager to learn more about their local snow leopards and camera trapping survey techniques. They’ll be the local guardians of North Sikkim’s snow leopards for decades to come.
A foundation for the future
The camera trap photos collected by Phuchung and his team revealed five unique snow leopard individuals present in the survey region, adding an important new dimension to existing knowledge on snow leopard populations in this range area.
With proof of this magnificent cat’s presence in North Sikkim, groundwork for improving snow leopard conservation efforts in this region are now being laid.
Notably, survey findings will also be used to inform ongoing snow leopard conservation efforts in the adjacent Kanchenjunga Conservation Area in northeast Nepal to the west as well as in contiguous snow leopard range areas of Bhutan to the east.
The first ever snow leopard to be collared using GPS technology in Nepal was found to regularly cross the international border between Nepal and Sikkim, which has highlighted the critical importance of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve as a transboundary corridor for this iconic high mountain species.
Now with this important companion initiative in Sikkim providing photographic evidence of snow leopard population size and migration routes, the stage is being set for the first robust, evidence-based transboundary conservation efforts in critical snow leopard range areas of the eastern Himalayas.
Learn more about community-based, transboundary snow leopard conservation.