Shimla, Jan 27 (PTI) A pair of snow leopards will again be seen at the Himalayan Nature Park in Kufri next month, an official said Sunday.

A male-female pair of leopards will be brought here most probably by February 10 from the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling in West Bengal under animal exchange programme, said Kufri Range Forest Officer (RFO) Himanshu.

A team of six people, including two veterinary doctors, a forest guard and two animal attendants, left for Darjeeling on January 26, he said.

Himanshu told PTI that the two leopards will be brought to Kufri in a specially constructed caged truck.

The team most probably will leave for Darjeeling on February 2 and is likely to reach Kufri by February 10, he added.

As per guidelines of the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), the leopards will be quarantined for one month before being put on display in March for visitors.

The snow leopard has been declared as vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), he said, adding that it is found in 12 countries. The big cat is found only in five Indian states, including Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, Himanshu added.

Snow leopards are found in their natural habitats at the Pin Valley National Park at Lahaul-Spiti, Great Himalayan National Park at Kullu and Kibber Wild Life Sanctuary at Spiti in Himachal Pradesh.

The CZA had approved last year a proposal to bring two big cats to the Kufri zoo, he added.

“However, the hot weather conditions in Bihar, UP, Delhi and Haryana did not allow us to bring the snow leopards by road during previous several months as heat wave might have harmed them as they are habitual to cold weather conditions,” the RFO said.

He said a pair of snow leopards – Subhash and Sapna – was earlier kept in an enclosure in Kufri zoo 15 years ago.

At that time too, they were brought from the Darjeeling zoo by road in a pre designed cage.

Female leopard Sapna died in 2007, subsequently, the male leopard Subhash was sent to Darjeeling zoo for breeding in 2012, he added.

The Kufri hill station was founded by Britishers in 1819. The zoo was established in 1992 in Kufri.

About two lakh people visit Kufri zoo every year, the RFO said. Being tourist season, four to five thousand tourists are visiting the zoo daily these days, he added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.