Beijing Conference on Snow Leopards Called “Watershed Event”

The international conference on Range-wide Conservation Planning for Snow Leopards held in Beijing, China, from 7 – 11 March, was deemed a major success by the conference organizers which included the Panthera Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Snow Leopard Trust (SLT), Snow Leopard Network (SLN), and the Chinese Institute of Zoology. Conference co-Chair Dr. Tom McCarthy (SLT) labeled it “A watershed event in our common effort to save snow leopards.”

Leading conservationists and researchers, as well as government officials from 11 of 12 snow leopard range countries, were among the more than 100 conference attendees.

Founder and Executive Chairman of Panthera, Tom Kaplan, announced that organization’s commitment to an unprecedented range-wide effort to conserve snow leopards. Panthera’s offer of partnerships and collaboration, backed by substantial resources, caught the attention of the audience. The magnitude of the task ahead was echoed in keynote addresses by Dr. George Schaller (WCS), one of the first people to ever study the elusive snow leopard, and Dr. Urs Breitenmoser, co-Chair of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, who made it clear that saving the big cats would not be easy and would require substantial effort of all concerned.

Unlike many conferences which showcase the plight of an imperiled species but take few positive steps toward their conservation, the gathering in Beijing included several work sessions that sought specific results which would be immediately applicable to preserving snow leopards across their central Asian range. The first two days were dedicated to mapping the collective knowledge of 30 experts occurrence and distribution. Led by Dr. Eric Sanderson (WCS) and Dr. David Mallon (SLN), participants worked in regional teams to map the known and suspected range of the cats and identify critical conservation units within the range. Despite past efforts to depict exactly where snow leopards can still be found, maps of their range were based on habitat models and scant data, much of it anecdotal. The map created during this conference represents the collective field data of the world’s most knowledgeable scientists, which is unprecedented for this species.

Invited speakers then shared expertise on successful conservation methods and best practices in research methods, and country teams reported on the status of snow leopard action plans across the region. The participants were then charged with using the new range maps and targeted conservation units to develop country specific actions that should be undertaken in the next several years if snow leopards are to be saved. Each country’s plan was designed with the following shared vision in mind.

A Vision for Snow Leopards over the next century:

A world where snow leopards and their wild prey thrive in healthy mountain ecosystems across all major ecological settings of their entire range, and where snow leopards are revered as unique ecological, economic, and spiritual assets.


A full report, inclusive of all country-specific actions and the new range map, will soon be available from the co-organizers and will also be found on the Snow Leopard Network website:

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