Six snow leopards in the icy Indian state of Himachal Pradesh will be fitted with satellite-linked collars in a project aimed at deepening understanding of the endangered mountain cat, wildlife officials said Wednesday.
The $40,450 project will help the state wildlife department study the movement of the snow leopards in the Himalayas where climate change and human settlements are affecting their habitat.
"Half a dozen snow leopards will be tagged by GPS collars and the behavior of these elusive cats will be observed," said Vivek Mohan, a senior state wildlife department official.
The Indian northern belt is home to as many as 700 of the world's 7,000 snow leopards, whose natural mountain habitat is fast depleting, according to the conservationist group WWF. Snow leopards are found across 12 central and South Asian countries, including India, China and Pakistan.
As a result, the wild cats are often left without prey, poached by hunters for their luxuriant spotted coats and killed by livestock owners who see the leopards as a threat to their animals. Snow leopard bones and body parts are prized by smugglers who sell them for use in traditional Chinese medicine.