A trip was recently organised in Bhutan as a part of a workshop on Snow Leopard and High Altitude Survey Techniques. According to the result of the two- week old field trip, the snow leopard population around Lingshi is of medium density (one to three leopards per 100 scl km). The findings of the team, comprising staff of the Jigme Dorji National Park, World Wide Fund for Nature officials and two international experts, was released on May 30. Covering an area of about 250 sq km, the trip started from Drugyel Dzong in Paro, moved up through jangothang to Lingshi and returned via Shodu and Barshang to Dodena in Thimphu. Rodney Jackson of the International Snow Leopard Trust, a member of the survey, said that surveying snow leopards required special techniques as the animal's elusive nature made it hard to be tracked down. The team examined pug marks, urination marks and scrape marks the animal had made on the ground.

In a separate survey of the leopard's prey species over the area, an abundance of blue sheep - about five sheep per sq km - was brought to light. This revealed that there was no threat of the leopards killing the rural livestock. According to Jackson, the leopards are known to haunt rocky areas of broken terrain between 4,000-5,500 m above the sea level interspersed with cliffs and caves. Snow leopards are also found in the Kulong Chhu Wildlife Sanctuary and the Thrumshingla National Park.

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