New photo evidence of snow leopards in northeast India

snow leopard caught by camera trap

For perhaps the first time ever, a snow leopard was captured by a camera trap in a remote forest in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Although known for its biodiversity, Arunachal Pradesh, located in the farthest northeast point in the country, remains largely unexplored, making this photographic evidence of snow leopards especially significant. This particular camera trap was set up in Thembang, one of the state’s many forests cared for by local communities.

These areas, known as Community Conserved Areas (CCAs), enable locals to become decision-makers and active managers of conservation activities in the region. Introduced by WWF-India in 2004, CCAs empower residents by allowing them to engage in everything from wildlife monitoring to patrolling to community-based tourism, and they’re crucial to protecting snow leopards and their habitat.

“That this snow leopard was documented in a community area is significant.”

Nilanga Jayasinghe
Senior Program Officer, Wildlife Conservation

“That this snow leopard was documented in a community area is significant,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, senior program officer with WWF’s wildlife conservation team. “In a state where a majority of snow leopard habitat is located outside protected areas, this image is evidence that engaged and sustainable community management and investment in these important areas can have benefits for both people and wildlife.”

Since March, WWF-India has worked with the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department to identify the distribution of snow leopards and other large mammals in these community-protected areas. Trained researchers have deployed camera traps and interviewed local herders to document the presence of the species.

The survey will allow the forest department to develop a conservation plan that addresses the main threats to snow leopards: retaliatory killings, infrastructure development, and climate change.

Snow leopards play a key role as their habitat’s top predator, and a thriving population of these cats means that countless other species will thrive as well. WWF’s long-standing community-engagement activities are a key component of our work to conserve snow leopards and their habitat.

Learn more about snow leopards.