After 148 days of continuous camera trapping (Jestha, 2076 to Kartik, 2076) in Rolwaling valley; research team led by conservation officer Mr. Bishnu Prasad Pandey (NTNC-GCAP) has captured pictures of snow leopard (Uncia uncia) via camera traps for the first time in Rolwaling valley. Earlier, photographic evidence of the leopard was caught in the Lapchi valley of the conservation area by the GCAP team. In addition to snow leopard in Rolwaling, photographs of the Himalayan wolf (Canis lupus), the red panda (Ailurus fulgens), musk deer (Moschus leucogaster) and Himalayan monal (Lophophorus empejanus) were also trapped while satyr tragopan (Tragopan satyra) and Assamese monkey (Macaca assamensis) were observed during biodiversity monitoring.
The Rolwaling valley, a wilderness area and famous tourist destination area of the Gaurishankar Conservation Area (GCA), was considered as a potential habitat for snow leopards. The study team has recorded three photographs of a snow leopard at elevation of 4536 meter above sea level. The snow leopard has visited the site 3 times confirming its residence in this valley. All photographs belong to the same individual possibly a female. Photo analysis revealed that the snow leopard is different than the one recorded earlier in Lapchi valley.
The Himalayan wolf was also caught on the cameras in Tsho Rolpa (4536 m), Yalung pass (4956 m) and the upper ridges of Dudhkunda Lake (5091 m). These photographs are taken for the first time in the conservation area. The existence of this species was confirmed in the past by social survey and sign surveys in the past. In addition to those species, Red panda was photographed at 4072 meters elevation on the thickets of Juniper-Rhododendron anthopogon scrubs. Moreover, Himalayan musk deer was also captured in a human-dominated landscape near Naa village. Himalayan monal (Danphe), the national bird of Nepal and protected bird, was captured both in handheld cameras and camera traps. Research team has observed pair of satyr tragopan (Monal) and troops of Assamese monkeys in Rolwaling valley. Altogether, 7 protected wild lives are recorded from this survey.
For the study purpose, the conservation area is divided into 4 major blocks viz. The Numbur-Marbu block, Rolwaling block, Lapchi block, and Sindhupalchok block. The study was initiated from Lapchi block and progressed towards Rolwaling. Rolwaling block is divided into 12 numbers of 16 square kilometers grids. Each grid is supplied with 1 infrared camera for monitoring wildlife activity in this valley. The altitudinal coverage for the study was from 3742 m to 5091 m. A field examination was made during camera installing. The team has chosen the areas where the concentration of signs of animals was higher. Fecal deposits, trails, and tracks, cliff base, ridgelines, and valleys were preferred for camera placement.
During the study period, snow leopard has visited the site three times producing 56 numbers of identifiable photographs while Himalayan wolves were caught on 3 cameras 5 times in different localities. The red fox was the frequent visitor for the valley (23 times) while yellow-throated marten (2 times), beech marten (3 times) and one unidentified carnivore was also caught on camera.
Among the prey species, Pika was the frequent visitors to camera sites (75 times) followed by domestic cattle (Chauri) (66 times), blood pheasant (28 times), Himalayan snowcock (25 times) and Himalayan monal (14 times). Those animals are stapled food/prey species for carnivores in highlands. Additional to those animals, Himalayan goral (4 times), Himalayan serow (3 times), Himalayan tahr (1 time), musk deer (1 time) were also found in camera frame.
All the photographs are credited to NTNC/GCAP