Friday, November 06, 2009

Workshop on Project Snow Leopard in Sikkim

GANGTOK, November 6: The first stakeholders’ workshop on Project Snow Leopard (PSL) for North Sikkim was conducted at the Forest Conference Hall on October 31 by State Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department jointly with The Mountain Institute-India (TMI-India) and Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Mysore under CEPF small grants project.
The workshop was chaired by the Chief Wildlife Warden cum Additional PCCF, NT Bhutia IFS along with other senior officials including Jt. Director Khangchendzonga National Park. Other participants included Chewang (Lachung Pipon), Tshering Dorjee and Norgay Lachungpa, Yaver Lachenpa, Gyambo, Lachen Dzumsa, members of Lachen Tourism Development Committee, Dr. Thinley Bhutia representing State Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services Department Dr. Yash Veer Bhatnagar, Senior Scientist, NCF, Dr. Ghanashyam Sharma, Programme Manager, TMI-India and his team, informs a press release.
Welcoming all the participants, C. Lachungpa, IFS CCF Territorial and Land Use talked about the importance of Snow Leopard conservation. He said that mountain people have strong cultural attachment with the mountain and its wildlife. “This platform is important for all of us to build up a strong effort towards conservation of Snow Leopard in Sikkim which is as charismatic for the mountains as the tiger in the forests,” he said.
Dr. Yash Veer Bhatnagar, Senior Scientist with Nature Conservation Foundation and member of the National Steering Committee for PSL, a flagship programme of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India also gave an overview of the PSL. Informing that the project is unique in the country and being implemented in five Himalayan range states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, Mr. Bhatnagar said PSL aims to provide the necessary framework and support to strengthen overall wildlife conservation using innovative programmes fully involving the local communities who share the snow leopard's home.
Speaking about local initiatives, the Chief Wildlife Warden said that the department has identified five potential landscapes spread over West, North and East Sikkim including West and North KNP, Lhonak Valley, Tso Lhamo-Lashar-Yumesamdong complex and Tembawa-Jelep La. State level Society, Landscape level implantation committee and Village level wildlife conservation committee are now under formation involving the participation of all levels of people including security forces. He mentioned that the department needed the support of all stakeholders and the value of flagship species like Snow Leopard and Yak whose natural home is the high altitude wilderness area of Sikkim.
Usha Lachungpa, Senior Research Officer on her part gave a presentation on the key issues pertaining to wildlife conservation in the high altitudes of Sikkim. She defined the current potential landscape for snow leopard conservation and presented the lists of stakeholders representing the state, landscape and village level committees, mentioning that all important stakeholders like the military/paramilitary, government departments, tourism industry, Dzumsa of Lachen and Lachung, and NGOs most of whom have expressed their keen interest to support the project.
Dr. Ghanashyam Sharma, Programme Manager of TMI-India presented the key findings of the collaborative TMI-I - NCF - Forest Department project. He also spoke about the value of rotational grazing practiced in the high altitudes of North Sikkim.
The last session included a fruitful discussion where Chewang, Pipon Lachung agreed to extend all necessary support of the Dzumsa. He stated that the key persons whose livelihoods are directly linked to the alpine area such as yak herders need to be involved. Representatives of Lachen Dzumsa agreed to discuss these issues with Lachen Dzumsa.
Dr. Thinlay from AHLF&VS department also spoke about ongoing SARAH project to control stray dogs in Sikkim which would have direct impact towards snow leopard and wildlife conservation in general.
While summarizing the workshop, Dr. Bhatnagar further said this is a great beginning. Sikkim has the potential to develop a model PSL programme for the country due to its relatively small size, strong local institutions, and responsive government, he added.

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