Mr. Shiv Kumar, Deputy Ranger, Himachal Pradesh Conservation Of Wild Species Winner, Himachal Pradesh


Deputy Range Forest Officer Shiv Kumar is one such person who has been taking pictures of the wildlife for over a decade. In the rough terrain of Lahaul-Spiti, it is no easy task. He has photographed brown bears, Tibetan wolves, Musk deer, and the rare snow leopard which makes for a very difficult subject. The snow leopard has made him excited to capture that split second that the elusive species of the snow leopard offers very rarely. Mr. Shiv Kumar also has a keen interest in Himalayan avifauna and is highly committed to biodiversity conservation As a native and a trekker of the steep and snowy slopes, he understands the complexity of being a forester in charge of a region where wildlife and human conflicts are common. The migratory shepherd’s flocks face the threat of predation by snow leopards and Tibetan wolves, both highly endangered species that wander to the herds in search of food. As a Deputy Forest Ranger his duty encompasses looking after wild creatures and their habitats. He has been working beyond the call of duty in a unique habitat in the Trans Himalayan biogeographical region in Lahaul for over 10 years! Despite the remote location of his work as a Forester, Mr. Shiv Kumar is endeared and well known among the locals as a photographer and a ‘Citizen Scientist’, who has closely studied and documented high altitude mammals and avifauna of the mighty Himalayas. He is passionate about spreading awareness on wildlife conservation and is equally skilled at communicating with the local people, school children, visitors, photographers, and scientists alike. Mr. Shiv Kumar is the recipient of Sanctuary Nature Foundation’s support for his dedication to wildlife. “ I have been working for the conservation of wildlife, especially snow leopards, in Lahaul & Spiti Valley since 2010. In 2016, I started to make professional documentaries about snow leopards. I captured a leopardess along with her two cubs on my camera.”

Need for the Initiative

The high-altitude Himalayan regions of Himachal Pradesh are important wildlife habitats that are highly inaccessible. The terrain is rugged and is snowbound for many months of the year. Despite the harsh conditions, the region has some of the most unique mountain mammals in the world. The snow leopard is the apex predator in the landscape and also a keystone species. It is one of the rarest of India’s big cat species and is officially the flagship species of the Himalayas. Its camouflage makes it difficult to spot, let alone photograph. A cameraman behind a long lens has to be extremely patient and display perseverance for years to get a picture. Due to its elusive nature, not much is known about it and more scientific data is required to understand it better. The biogeographic region where the snow leopard is found in Protected Areas includes about 10,000 square kilometres of desolate landscape. It is primarily located in Pin Parvati; Seichu Twan and Rupi Bhabha Wildlife Sanctuaries. Much work needs to be done by wildlife scientists in this incredible biogeographic Northern Himalayan range of mountains. Mr. Shiv Kumar has travelled across the rugged snow-covered eco-region of his native region, Lahaul Spiti, to not only capture the majestic snow leopard which is the fascination of a lot of photographers but also to study and document details about these ‘Guardians of the Himalayas’.

Conservation Initiatives and Impacts

With his passion and grit to overcome any obstacles he may face on the road to conservation, Shiv Kumar has become a role model for young people in Lahaul-Spiti. He is known to wildlife biologists, both foreign and Indian, as a reliable observer and valuable supporter of wildlife research. He has worked with several conservation scientists of repute and provided his expertise to a foreign university. His fascination for wildlife made him start taking photographs, especially of enigmatic species such as snow leopard, ibex, and brown and black bears. While his ability to capture the most elusive animals on camera is admired by other wildlife photographers and both professionals and amateur wild lifers, it plays an important role in generating public awareness towards wildlife in general, and these rare species in particular. He has also developed expertise in bird ringing and has worked as a support system for Indian and foreign wildlife scientists. This is the type of work that sensitises young people to become advocates for wildlife conservation in the future. The cumulative actions of Mr. Shiv Kumar have brought wisdom in spreading awareness and at the same time has instilled sensitivity among the locals. His extensive work with migrant shepherds is a key to conserving wild species in a zone where humans and predators use the same habitat and the chances of human-wildlife conflict are high. The migratory shepherds also shared with him their traditional knowledge of rare species of the mountains which helped him work on detailing the documentation he has been doing for the wildlife of the region. The small steps by the “Forester Scientist” rippled a big revolution in a sense which has set an example not only for the forest officials but also for the local community members for conserving their biological heritage.

Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards

Conservation of Wild Species -WINNER 2021