Conservationists with the World Wildlife Fund and the government of Bhutan recently captured a rare pair of snow leopards on video camera wandering through a remote mountainous region between India and Pakistan.
This extraordinary footage of the reclusive snow leopards was filmed in the Wangchuck Centennial Park, the country's largest protected area, which links to the Sacred Himalayan Landscape in Nepal and India, according a statement by the WWF.
The images were captured by infrared cameras in late 2011 in the Kargil district, very close to the heavily militarized Line of Control that runs through the disputed territory of Kashmir, reports the Associated Press.
It was the second sighting of the snow leopards, thought to have abandoned that region following the 1999 India-Pakistan conflict. The camera's were set up in hot spots by the researchers to provide data needed to ensure their long-term survival.
The WWF said, "the cameras filmed both predator and prey species," including the Tibetan wolf, musk deer, wild dogs, blue sheep, red fox, Himalayan serow, pika, pheasants and other birds of prey, "suggesting this protected area is a key refuge for Himalayan biodiversity."
Conservationists are encouraged by the images of the breeding pair seen in the footage scent-marking their territory. The video was recently uploaded to YouTube by the WWF where its been viewed by tens of thousands.
“It’s thrilling to actually see snow leopards—perhaps the most elusive of all the mountain species in the Himalayas—engage in behavior we would otherwise only read about,” said WWF’s Dr. Rinjan Shrestha who led the research team in Wangchuck Centennial Park.
The elusive snow leopard is considered an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They number 4,500 - 7,500 worldwide and are threatened by poaching, climate change, loss of habitat and retaliatory killings by farmers who see them as a threat to livestock. The snow leopard is considered the most endangered of all the big cats, and are rarely seen in the extreme cold and harsh terrain of the Himalayan regions.