A photographer and government official from India has shared rare pictures and video of the “ghost of the mountains,” snow leopard cubs and their loving mother. Ankur Rapria said he saw the family after a trek of 4 to 5 kilometers (Over 2.4 to 3+ miles) near the picturesque village of Kibber in the Spiti Valley.
Taking a picture of the snow leopards here is rare, much less a video of two running, playful cubs and their mother lovingly grooming them (see video below).
The Snow Leopard
To put it in perspective, for more than 20 years, there was only one photograph of the leopards in circulation, taken by George Schaller in Chitral Gol, Pakistan, in 1970. That photograph appeared in a book called “The Snow Leopard.”
Four decades later, Schaller said the leopards had only grown slightly less mysterious.
Snow Leopards at Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary
Kibber village is famous for the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary and the highest post office and motorable road in the world, at 14200 feet elevation. The Himalayas surround the village, home to rare endangered animals like snow leopards, Ibex, blue sheep, bearded eagles, griffons, and the Himalayan wolf.
“Look at love, joy, n happiness, when Snow Leopard Cubs reunite with the mother after hearing her call. Kibber, Himachal Pradeshm,” tweeted the photographer.
Look at love, joy n happines, when Snow Leopard Cubs reunite with the mother after hearing her call.
Kibber, Himachal Pradesh @ParveenKaswan @incredibleindia @IndiAves @hp_tourism @ThePhotoHour @NikonIndia pic.twitter.com/AMJT6rjtkB
— Ankur Rapria, IRS (@irsankurrapria) March 6, 2023
Video shared by Jagran English:
Snow Leopard Sightings in India’s Spiti Valley
In another tweet, Rapria says he believes the playful cubs are about a year old. The remote valley has become a sanctuary for them, but their population may only be around 30 or so animals.
“The cubs are around 1 yr old, and both are seen with their mother in deep gorges and steep and inaccessible rocky mountain faces. Spiti valley has become a safe habitat for the snow leopards n their population is gradually increasing in the region,” he later tweeted.
Three years ago, another video of a Snow Leopard sighting in the Spiti Valley went viral. Two local people took the video, considered possibly the closest encounter caught on video. The beautiful cat was seen boldly walking down the Kaumik-Kaza road on a Sunday evening.
Video of the Snow Leopard by the Himachal Watcher:
Community Action to Save Leopards
In part to local partnerships with conservation groups like the Nature Conservation Foundation, Kibber villagers started protecting the cats and their prey species. As a direct result, the snow leopards had fewer reasons to attack their livestock for food.
Eventually, the village became a hotspot for big cat and nature lovers, rewarded with numerous visits by international tourists. These cats are so incredible that people travel from all over, hoping to catch a glimpse of them in the wild. The community saw it was in their interest to proudly protect the amazing wildlife.
Without all of this, the video by Ankur Rapria would probably never be possible. Animals like these are vastly more valuable alive and well, roaming freely. They are, in fact, priceless and irreplaceable. Their lives are interwoven in a delicate food chain and ecosystem of which we, too, play our individual parts.
“Communities are the ones that have to decide to protect their environment to protect their future,” George Schaller said in an interview.
You can see more magical photos and videos from Rapria’s travels on his YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
Observing a Snow Leopard In the Wild
Today, we can see videos and photos of snow leopards. One could travel to see a snow leopard in a zoo, with about 600-700 worldwide. But in the wild, the experience is a totally different animal, taking on a spiritual quality. That’s one of the 1978 book’s subjects, particularly for the author, naturalist writer Peter Matthiessen, who never saw the elusive cat in the wild himself.
“That the snow leopard is, that it is here, that its frosty eyes watch us from the mountains – that is enough,” he wrote.
Elusive snow leopards have long been considered mysterious and even magical as they are so perfectly camouflaged as if made up of the clouds they live in.
“Snow leopards, which belong to the genus Panthera, inhabit some of the highest mountain ranges in the world, and their camouflage is so perfectly tuned that they appear ethereal, as though made from storm clouds. Two of them feature on the Tibetan flag of independence, representing harmony between the temporal and spiritual planes, wrote the New Yorker.
On the Tibetan flag, the leopards take on the look of magical, otherworldly creatures.
“Two snow lions holding a flaming blue, white and orange jewel and a blue and orange taijitu on a white mountain with a gold sun rising over it, all over 12 red and blue alternating rays with a gold border around the upper, lower, and hoist side of the flag,” via Wikipedia.
Here’s another rare video of a Snow Leopard hunting an Ibex in the Spiti Valley from 2018.