Hemis National Park (also known as Hemis High Altitude National Park) is a high altitude national park in the Indian region of Ladakh. It is known all over the world for having the highest density of snow leopards of any protected area.
It is the second largest continuous protected area in India, after Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. It is India's only national park north of the Himalayas. The park is bordered on the north by the Indus River's banks, and it encompasses the catchments of Markha, Sumdah and Rumbak.
• The park takes its name from the Hemis Gompa, a well-known Buddhist monastery 40 kilometres south of Leh.
• The park was established in 1981 to protect the Rumbak and Markha catchments, which cover approximately 600 km2. In 1987, the park was officially designated as a national park. By incorporating neighbouring lands, it grew to around 3,350 km2 in 1988. In 1990, it increased to 4,400 km2.
• In the Rumbak and Markha valleys, Hemis has a population of about 400 people who live in nine villages.
• The villages are situated on or near valley floors up to a height of 4,000 metres. The locals are mostly Buddhists, and Markha Village also has a monastery.
• The Hemis Gompa, which inspired the park's name, is Ladakh's largest and wealthiest monastery, located just outside Shang's northern border. Chang-Chub-Sam-Ling, which means "place of compassion," is another name for the Hemis gompa.
• Snow Leopard is a project dedicated to preserving the entire Himalayan biosphere. The department began working on the project in 2004 and it was officially launched on February 20, 2009.
• The Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau, which includes dense pine forests, alpine shrubs, and vast meadows, is home to Hemis National Park.
• The panoramic vistas are unrivalled in their stark and almost untouched beauty, with the Indus River bordering the park on the north.
• Within the park's boundaries, there are six villages. Around 16000 people live in the villages of Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse, and Chilling. The park also contains a number of gompas and chortens.
• Rugged valleys, dotted with rocks and massive boulders, characterise the landscape. The Markha, Rumbak, Khurnak, and Alam valleys in central Ladakh are high-altitude deserts.
• The valleys are characterised by vast swaths of sparse grasslands, as well as a variety of shrubs and patches of trees in the valley bottoms, which account for about 10% of the total land area.
• The park is surrounded by rocky terrain, and the thin soil cover encourages poor vegetative growth. In sheltered locations, dry alpine pastures exist, and grass growth is relatively rapid during the summer season after the snow melts.
• Hemis' vegetation is primarily alpine and steppe, with patchy forests and shrub species at the valley's bottoms.
• Only a few patches of alpine vegetation can be found on the moist upper mountain slopes. Steppe vegetation dominates the remaining mountain slopes and open hillsides.
o Scientific Name: Panthera uncia
Due to their position as the top predator in the food web, snow leopards serve as an indicator of the health of the mountain ecosystem
in which they live.
THEIR GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE IN INDIA INCLUDES:
• Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh which are located in the western Himalayas.
• Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh which are located in the eastern Himalayas.
• Hemis, Ladakh is the world's snow leopard capital.
STATUS OF PROTECTION
• The IUCN-World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species classifies the snow leopard as Vulnerable.
• It is also listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species' Appendix I.
• The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 lists it in Schedule I.
• It's also on the list of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which gives the species the highest conservation status both globally and in India.
• It is also protected by several national laws in the countries where it is found.
INDIA'S CONSERVATION EFFORTS
• The snow leopard has been designated as a flagship species for the high altitude Himalayas by the Indian government.
• Since 2013, India has been a member of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Programme.
• Himal Sanrakshak: It is a community volunteer programme that was launched in October 2020 to protect snow leopards.
• In 2019, the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment was launched, which has proven to be very useful for population monitoring.
• SECURE Himalaya: The project on high-altitude biodiversity conservation and reducing local communities' reliance on the natural ecosystem was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
• The Project Snow Leopard (PSL) was established in 2009 to promote an inclusive and participatory approach to snow leopard conservation and habitat protection.
• The Snow Leopard is one of 21 species on the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change's recovery list.
• Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling, West Bengal, runs a Snow Leopard conservation breeding programme.