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