Shimla, Nov 25 (IANS) Overgrazing by livestock in a national park in Himachal Pradesh is threatening the survival of the Asiatic ibex - a wild goat specie - that in turn is crucial for the snow leopard population in the area, says a conservationist.
'Overgrazing by livestock and unscientific extraction of various species of flora by locals and shepherds in and around the Pin Valley National Park is depleting its flora,' senior scientist Yash Veer Bhatnagar, who is associated with the Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation, told IANS.
Bhatnagar has been studying the ecology of animals in the Pin Valley park for the past 10 years.
'The Asiatic ibex is mainly threatened due to shortage of food. Grazing pressure by livestock results in competition among species,' he said.
The Asiatic ibex has a wide global distribution spanning over 200,000 sq km - from the Hindukush to the Sutlej gorge along the Himalayas in India to the Tien Shan and Altai ranges in Mongolia and Russia.
'Villages in the vicinity of the park are an immediate threat to the species. The hazards for the wild animals have increased as the park is used from June to November by migratory graziers whose livestock are potential carriers of diseases.
'The dependence of the villagers on the park for wood, fodder and cultivation is also degrading its habitat,' he said.
Rugged with sandy plains and surrounded by barren mountains ranging from 3,650 m to 6,632 m, the Pin Valley park was established in 1987. It is spread over 1,825 sq km with a core zone of 1,150 sq km.
Bhatnagar advocated the need to check the dwindling population of the Asiatic ibex.
'The Asiatic ibex, along with bharal (Himalayan blue sheep), is an important prey species of the highly endangered snow leopard. Good ibex populations, especially in parts of Spiti, Lahaul, Kinnaur, Chamba and Kullu, can greatly help maintain a good snow leopard population.
'Studies have shown that in areas with a healthy ibex population, instances of snow leopard attacks on herders' livestock are fewer,' he said.
According to studies conducted by the Solan-based high altitude zoology field station of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), mammalian fauna in the cold desert of the Pin Valley park is quite diverse.
The ZSI has recorded the presence of the red fox, Tibetan wolf, stone marten, Himalayan weasel, pale weasel and the mouse hare in the park.
Thirty-nine species of birds and 14 species of butterfly are also found in the park. The bird species include the snow pigeon, blue rock pigeon, plain mountain finch, golden eagle, Himalayan griffon, common kestrel and long-tailed shrike.
Himachal Pradesh, probably a storehouse of biodiversity in the western Himalayas, supports 25 percent of the country's mammalian fauna.
The ZSI in its report, 'Fauna of Western Himalaya', has recorded 447 species of birds and 107 species of mammals in the tiny hill state.
The best sighting of animals can be made between September and November when animals start their seasonal migration to lower altitudes.
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