Bhutanese Film Student Sends Message to Herders through Film

A Bhutanese film student, Tenzin Phuntsho, is working on a snow leopard conservation video to reach nomadic herders. Full text of article as follows:


Snow leopards become video stars in student’s plan to  save them

Humans are the biggest threat to the endangered snow leopard but a former  park ranger from Bhutan hopes to mitigate that threat, thanks to Australian  help.

The soft-furred, snowy cats do not live in Australia, except in places like  the National Zoo in Canberra, which is home to two of them, named Bhutan and  Shiva.

They are found in the wild in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, Bhutan,  China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan,  Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Researchers and conservationists believe there are  between 3000 and 6000  left in the wild.

But former park ranger Tenzin Phuntsho, who volunteers at the zoo while  studying filmmaking in Canberra on an Australian government scholarship, said he  is working on a plan to help conserve the small cats, who have big feet for  walking on snow.

”It is so beautiful,” Mr Phuntsho said of the animal.

He hopes to use his training to educate people in Bhutan about the need to  preserve the elusive cat.

There is a 95 per cent illiteracy rate among the nomadic population so he  believes video will get the message across.

Until recently the cats had been thriving in Bhutan, where the cultural  philosophy is that all life forms are connected.

Leopards eating domestic stock had been considered a part of life, and even  if one killed a yak, there would be no retaliation, Mr Phuntsho said.

But more people are moving into the alpine areas of the Himalayas and since  yaks are a trapping of wealth there are a lot more about for leopards to  eat.

Yaks are less agile than other local wildlife and easier prey for the  leopard.

”I am a bit afraid now because … people are changing and snow leopards are  becoming more of a threat,” Mr Phuntsho said.

People are becoming more aggressive: ”I fear they might retaliate one  day.”

The National Zoo also has a volunteer team that helps wildlife charities  around the world, including the global Snow Leopard Trust.

The trust’s website says that over the past 16 years snow leopard numbers  have declined by about 20 per cent due to habitat and prey base loss, as well as  poaching and persecution. Losses to poaching were most severe in the former  Russian republics during the 1990s and have declined.

But an illegal trade continues as demand for body parts from China is  growing.



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