Snow leopards are one of the most stunning and royal animals on this earth. But globally, as few as 3,500 snow leopards have remained in the wild, and this animal is listed among the ‘endangered species’ in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. But one man from Ladakh is rescuing these beasts and is trying to maintain a good habitat for them.

Khernab Phuntsog, a 42-year-old man grew up in Chilling, a tiny village 60 km away from Leh. Khernab Phuntsog would regularly spot snow leopards at a distance while taking out the household goats and sheep for grazing up on mountain grasslands nearby. It was during the preparations for his grandmother's cremation, when he was 12 and came within 100 meters of a snow leopard. This magnificent sighting inspired Khernab to first volunteer with the Wildlife Protection Department, and ultimately, he joined it as a wildlife guard at the age of 22. Since then, he has rescued 47 snow leopards for Hemis National Park.

Hemis National Park is the only national park in India that is situated in the north of the Himalayas, and it is the largest notified protected area in India. This park is home to several species of endangered species. And it is globally famous for snow leopards, and it is believed to have the greatest density of them in any protected area in the world. As per the last scientific survey conducted in 2012, the number of snow leopards in the 3,350 sq km-large Hemis National Park stood at 11, compared to 7 in 2006. Now, the National Park is planning to have another census in different parts of Ladakh. In today's time, Hemis National Park has about 60 snow leopards. And if the entire Ladakh area is considered, the figure would be above 250.


Wildlife guards like Khernab identify the areas like broken cliffs, deep valleys, and hanging rocks where snow leopards usually traverse. Khernab began his rescuing work in 1995 when they had no equipment. They merely carried empty sacks, ropes, and sticks for these rescue missions. It was an extremely risky job without any type of equipment. After confronting several deadly encounters with snow leopards without any equipment, in the 2000s, Khernab and his team started getting some equipment like camouflage nets, blow-pipes, and tranquilizers since possible overdoses can harm the leopards. After rescuing the snow leopards from residential areas, they are released back into the wild. During his two-decade work as a wildlife guard, Khernab has been involved in rescuing 47 snow leopards. Khernab and his one teammate named Tsering were awarded the Royal Bank of Scotland's “Save The Species Award” for their work on snow leopard conservation in 2017.

It is not an easy task to capture a snow leopard and handle it for a longer period. But Khernab has a genuine love for snow leopards. Even if called upon for a rescue past midnight, Khernab never denies taking up the task. But in Ladakh, the biggest threat to the survival of snow leopards is habitat destruction due to rising urbanization and development activities that are happening around the villages and in regions where snow leopards prey. According to Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, every year, about 21 to 45 snow leopards are killed in India for poaching or as retaliation for livestock loss.

Source: TripAdvisor

Despite all the threats, Khernab after rescuing 47 snow leopards wishes to rescue more. And even after 20 years on the job, his passion for snow leopards hasn't shrunk, and this indicates his true love for the snow leopards. Khernab thinks that it is his life-purpose to create a safe habitat for snow leopards. There is no one to represent the snow leopards and Khernab loves to represent them. Because these beautiful beasts are significant for the maintenance of the ecological balance, and we must at least encourage the work of Khernab who protects the snow leopards with all his heart.