Women and Voices from Periphery: SLN & International Women’s Day

The Snow Leopard Network is hosting a special event for International Women’s Day, March 8th 2022. The theme for this year’s 2022 International Day is Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow. Our event takes this theme into highlighting the opportunities for translating gender equality into practice of community conservation.

We are delighted to welcome Deepshikha Sharma and Chemi Lhamo who have been working in the high Himalayas of Spiti, India on snow leopard conservation with the Nature Conservation Foundation India. Our guests bring a unique perspective of bringing new and long term programs to support women at community level, including identifying and empower women champions for snow leopard conservation. We are looking forward to hearing their account and how their work contributes to a ‘sustainable tomorrow’ for snow leopard landscapes.

Following SLN’s Women & Conservation Series launched in 2021, we organized a poll on Twitter asking members and the conservation community what they considered to be of greatest interest for an online discussion related to gender and conservation. Participants fed back that they would welcome additional discussions related to gender and community conservation. The March 8th event gives us an opportunity not only to hear from most recent experiences in Spiti, India but also a chance to provide a platform for SLN members to share examples of gender sensitive or responsive community conservation for snow leopards. 

After the main presentation and questions we will dedicate the remainder of the session to collating these examples and experiences. With this in mind we specially encourage SLN members to come ready to communicate briefly: links of projects or documented examples of similar efforts that we can subsequently add to SLN’s resource centre. Do join us to promote these themes. 

About the Talk

The high Himalayan landscape in Himachal Pradesh is fascinating geography with unique biodiversity. The communities share a rich understanding of living harmoniously with nature and coexisting with wildlife around them. Deepshikha & Chemi will reflect upon how women from these landscapes navigate conservation spaces, the joys, and struggles of bringing them to the forefront, and their experiences of building conservation champions and outreach networks.

Photo by the Nature Conservation Foundation

About our Guests

Deepshikha has a master’s degree in Development from Azim Premji University and is currently working as a conservation coordinator at Nature Conservation Foundation. She has been facilitating community-led conservation in upper Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and in parts of Ladakh. She has been involved in the community issue of livestock depredation by wildlife and has been working towards raising awareness and reducing losses faced by herders. She is also working towards bringing local women to the forefront of conservation in the landscape.

 

Chemi has completed her post-graduate studies in Literature from the University of Delhi. She has worked in the Indian development sector as a communication professional raising awareness and engagement around issues of rural development, menstrual health & disaster relief, and rehabilitation. She currently works with NCF’s High Altitude Program to support conservation outreach in Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur & Ladakh. She is interested in exploring wildlife conservation through the lens of social justice and intersectionality.

Date/Time

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022 at 17:00 India time

Register today here

Please note

  • If you have never used Zoom before, we recommend that you try the link 10 minutes before the start of the lecture.
  • Please feel free to write questions in the comment area and there will be time for questions/discussion at the end of the talk.
  • Please note that the session will be recorded and later featured on the SLN website. If you have concerns about this please let us know before the session.
Photo by the Nature Conservation Foundation
Photo by the Nature Conservation Foundation
Photo by the Nature Conservation Foundation

Women & Community Conservation

Across the range, snow leopards and people share space. Engaging with local communities is essential for snow leopard conservation. Community based programmes tend to engage with men largely due to social norms and existing power structures. This often results in excluding women, who are important stakeholders and form almost 50% of the adult population, from conservation action and decision making.

In this webinar, we explore how to better engage women in conservation programs across the snow leopard landscape. We hear examples from existing programs that specifically target women and discuss how conservation programs can themselves shift social norms around gender equality (positively or negatively). We also examine the key role of policy in transforming community based programs through incorporating gender sensitive approaches.  

We will be hearing from conservationists across the snow leopard range – Bayara Agvantsaaren, Dr. LuZhi and Rashmi Singh – who are working at different levels to engage women in snow leopard conservation. Each of them will highlight a particular aspect of their work that highlights the opportunities and challenges in promoting women’s role in community based conservation. Dr. Charudutt Mishra, the Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, will facilitate the panel discussion. Charu has been a pioneer in community based conservation and brings a special perspective around how to make a difference at the ground level.

This webinar is Part 1 of a Webinar Series focussing on the role of women in snow leopard conservation and science (watch the Part 2 recording which took place in September 2021).

Module 14: Snow Leopard Encounters

October 6th, 13th & 20th, 2021
18:00-20:00 Bishkek time

Encounters with snow leopards can take many forms. They can range from rare sightings of one or more snow leopards, coming across injured snow leopards or instances or coming across cubs that may appear abandoned. It can also involve snow leopards killing livestocks in pastures and corrals. Although snow leopards are mostly elusive, these encounters do occur across the snow leopard range and at times can be very stressful for both the people and snow leopards involved. Responses can result in the loss of life or freedom for the snow leopard. Appropriate responses that minimize harm and promote the long term coexistence of people and snow leopards still need to be more widely known, shared and put into practice. 

The aim of this course is to provide hands-on guidance to help plan ahead for such situations and help resolve potential conflict situations without posing avoidable risk to humans or animals. This module brings together recent experiences from across the range and from multiple organisations to share good practices and discuss pros and cons of different ways of responding to such encounters, including approaches to minimising livestock depredation. 

The Bishkek Declaration 2017, endorsed by the 12 snow leopard range countries, recognises that threats to snow leopards are on the rise and that there is a need to develop policies and build capacity at multiple levels. This initiative, focussing on sharing experiences and building capacity for managing snow leopards in unusual or conflict situations, hopes to contribute toward this goal. This module is being organised in coordination with thanks to the support of the GSLEP Program Secretariat. We also thank the Snow Leopard Conservancy, Snow Leopard Trust, Snow Leopard Foundation Pakistan, Nature Conservation Foundation for contributing to this module.

Photo by Behzad Larry

About the course

Session 1: Recommendations on how to manage unusual snow leopard encounters

In 2020 the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Program (GSLEP) developed a policy brief on managing snow leopards in unusual or conflict situations. The guidelines in the policy brief are based on the most up-to-date information and scientific evidence. During this session the authors will outline the recommendations for how to manage snow leopards killing livestock in the pastures, killing livestock in corrals and when an injured snow leopard or cubs are encountered. The authors will also share information on how to handle situations where snow leopards have been caught by villagers after attacking livestock as well as possible means to handle snow leopards that repeatedly attack the same corral. 

Session 2: Strategies for minimising snow leopard depredation

The Snow Leopard Conservancy and Snow Leopard Trust, in collaboration with other organisations and governments have developed a number of livestock depredation mitigation tools. During this session the team will share experiences in applying these tools and working with communities, with the goal of addressing root causes leading to depredation and measures that maximise community acceptance. We will also discuss approaches for cost-sharing and ongoing adaptive monitoring and management. The Session will be an opportunity to discuss a range of different techniques and engagement mechanisms and to learn from participants on what tools are being used in their areas and can be improved.

Session 3: Shared practices from across the snow leopard range 

A series of case studies from India, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Pakistan gives unique insights on how encounters take place and vary. While the principles of responding to encounters are set out, understanding local context is vital for tailoring any effective responses. This includes looking at the different stakeholders involved, their interests and histories as well as local beliefs and policies in place. This session will showcase how responses have often had to deal with very sensitive issues within an often highly political setting. The session emphasises exchange of experiences and views with the intention of calibrating and grounding the previous session discussions.       

Meet the Resource Team

Ali Nawaz

Ali Nawaz PhD has 20 years of field research experience, spanning over diverse geographical regions in Pakistan, and has 50 scientific articles and over 30 management reports to his credit. His primary focus is on understanding ecology, co-existence, and conservation issues of the carnivore community in northern Pakistan. Dr Nawaz has worked intensively with the mountainous communities in alleviating human-carnivore conflicts and promoting acceptance of large carnivores. 

AJAY BIJOOR

Ajay Bijoor supports conservation efforts in the regions of Ladakh and Spiti valley in India. Over the last eight years, he has worked on setting up, running and monitoring community-conservation efforts in these regions. This effort aims at trying to create conditions conducive for conservation. More recently he has also been facilitating the process of building capacity for community-based conservation in snow leopard range countries. 

orjan johansson

Orjan Johansson PhD is a member of SLN’s Steering Committee. He is a senior conservation scientist at the Snow Leopard Trust and has worked with snow leopards since 2008. He is based at Grimso wildlife research station in Sweden and has previously worked with several other large carnivores including mountain lions, wolves, lynx and wolverines. His research evolves mainly around snow leopard ecology and behaviour. Orjan devotes a lot of his time to a snow leopard study in Tost Mountains, Mongolia.

ranjini murali

Ranjini Murali PhD has over ten years of experience working in snow leopard landscapes. Her PhD focused on understanding how local communities use and value ecosystem services from these landscapes. She is currently a conservation scientist at the Snow Leopard Trust and is an international staff on the GSLEP secretariat. As a part of her role she helps coordinate the effort and manage the database on unusual encounters for GSLEP.

 

shafqat hussain

Shafqat Hussain, PhD Founder of Project Snow Leopard, now part of the Baltistan Wildlife Conservation Development Organization (BWCDO) of which he is the Board Chair. Shafqat is a professor of anthropology at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. He is a Rolex Award for Enterprise laureate, a recipient of the United Nations Equator Prize and was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. In December of 2019 he published the book The Snow Leopard  and the Goat: Politics of Conservation in the Western Himalayas.

 

DEEPSHIKHA SHARMA

Deepshikha Sharma is a conservation practitioner with the Nature Conservation Foundation, India. For the past 2 years, she has been working alongside local communities to conserve snow leopard habitat. She is building volunteer networks in the landscape to create awareness and strengthen conservation action.

 

 

rodney jackson

Rodney Jackson PhD is a renowned snow leopard researcher and conservationist who led the first radio-collaring study of snow leopards in western Nepal in 1981-1985 that made it to the cover story of the June 1986 National Geographic Magazine. He has published widely, with his accomplishments including leading / co-authoring all IUCN Red Data List evaluations completed to date.  Rodney’s special interests rest with engaging and empowering local communities to address conservation issues, notably livestock depredation and related human-wildlife conflict. He pioneered initiatives at corral predator-proofing, community-based tourism (Himalayan Homestays), camera trapping, non-invasive scat genetics (with Dr. Jan Janecka and associates) and use of drones for censusing prey species. A Founding Member and first Conservation Director of the International Snow Leopard Trust, in 2000, Rodney co-founded the Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC), followed by the SLC-India Trust (now an independent NGO). He received a Masters degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1970, and his PhD from the University of London in 1996. A Rolex Award for Enterprise Laureate, Rodney is widely recognized internationally and within snow leopard range countries for his 40 year + commitment to furthering conservation of this iconic species.  (www.SnowLeopardConservancy.org).

 

KOUSTUBH SHARMA

Koustubh Sharma PhD has been involved in active research and conservation since 2001. He has been working with the Snow Leopard Trust since 2007, and currently serves as the Assistant Director of Conservation Policy and Partnerships. Since 2014, he is deputed as the International Coordinator of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystems Protection Program (GSLEP) at its secretariat in Bishkek. At the GSLEP Program, Koustubh works with a small team with support from international organizations to coordinate this unique alliance that brings together governments of the 12 snow leopard range countries, Non-Government Organizations and Conservationists. At the Snow Leopard Trust, he assists in implementing research, conservation, training and building collaborations across several countries.

Photo by Snow Leopard Conservancy

Date/Time

    • Wednesdays October 6th, 13th, 20th 2021: 18:00-20:00 Bishkek time

Planned Schedule

    • 2 hour online Zoom Seminars take place Wednesday of the month, October 2021
    • Additional group work, assignments or readings are likely to be organised by the trainers
    • Please note we expect all participants to attend the complete set of Wednesday Seminars as they are interconnected and build on each other
    • Details of each specific Seminar topic will be shared approximately 5 days beforehand; including any expected preparations by participants.
    • Please note that all sessions are recorded and then made available online through the SLN youtube channel. By participating in these online sessions you automatically agree to authorise recording of audio and visual content presented during the live event and consent to subsequent use of the recording in the public domain by SLN. If you have any concerns please contact us. 

Deadline for Applications

  • September 29th, 2021. Please note places are limited so please do
    not delay in applying.
  • Applications closed- Contact Rakhee if you are interested to attend.
Photo by Snow Leopard Conservancy

SLN Webinar: Women & Community Conservation

Across the range, snow leopards and people share space. Engaging with local communities is essential for snow leopard conservation. Community based programmes tend to engage with men largely due to social norms and existing power structures. This often results in excluding women, who are important stakeholders and form almost 50% of the adult population, from conservation action and decision making.

In this webinar, we explore how to better engage women in conservation programs across the snow leopard landscape. We hear examples from existing programs that specifically target women and discuss how conservation programs can themselves shift social norms around gender equality (positively or negatively). We also examine the key role of policy in transforming community based programs through incorporating gender sensitive approaches.  

We will be hearing from conservationists across the snow leopard range- Bayara Agvantsaaren, Dr. LuZhi and Rashmi Singh– who are working at different levels to engage women in snow leopard conservation. Each of them will highlight a particular aspect of their work that highlights the opportunities and challenges in promoting women’s role in community based conservation. Dr. Charudutt Mishra, the Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, will facilitate the panel discussion. Charu has been a pioneer in community based conservation and brings a special perspective around how to make a difference at the ground level.

We hope to see you, all members both men and women, at this very special webinar and look forward to drawing on your experiences and insights during the discussion. This webinar is Part 1 of a Webinar Series focussing on the role of women in snow leopard conservation and science.

About the Webinar

Opening the webinar we first hear from the panelists, each with a five-minute presentation, where they set the context of their work and highlight key issues. This will be followed by the panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Charudutt Mishra for twenty minutes focusing on opportunities and identifying strategies and priorities for engaging women in conservation programmes. This will be followed by an open interaction with the audience.

About our Guests

Bayara Agvantsaaren is the Executive Director of Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation and Mongolia Program Director, at the Snow Leopard Trust. “I have been working as a snow leopard conservationist since 1998 when I co-found Snow Leopard Enterprises Program which offers income generation to women rural herders who share mountain with these elusive cats. It has been amazing 20+ years career journey to work with different aspects of conservation. I am privileged to be able to help both snow leopards and local people.” shares Bayara.

Professor Lu Zhi is a conservation biologist in China whose work covers multiple-disciplinary researches and bridging academic research and practices, in order to seek solutions for conservation and sustainable development in China and to promote China’s positive role in the world. She has studied ecology and conservation of endangered species in southwest China and on the Tibetan Plateau, such as the giant panda, the snow leopard, the blue sheep, the Tibetan brown bear and the Przewalski gazelle, as well as their interactions with human activities. In recent years, she focuses on mechanisms of coexistence between human and nature. She leads conservation initiatives on community-led conservation and citizen sciences in both rural and urban contexts based on economic incentives, cultural values and policy improvements. She involved in conservation policy making at regional and national levels, and is an active member of international conservation discussions. 

Rashmi Singh is a PhD Scholar at the School of Human Ecology, Ambedkar University and Associate Editor for Pastoralism– research, policy and practice Journal. Her PhD work explores the politics of rangeland conservation in the Himalaya using an interdisciplinary approach. Her primary research interest includes disciplines of pastoral studies, rangeland conservation and animal geography. In the last nine years, she has worked extensively on the social dimensions of wildlife conservation across India. Her ongoing research has highlighted the importance of including pastoralists in the policy formulation, wildlife conservation, and management of rangelands. She is intrigued by the pastoral indigenous knowledge system and believes that long term regional studies are crucial for reconciling pastoral livelihood and rangeland conservation goals. 

Date/Time

Tuesday, September 21st, at 17:00-18:15 Bishkek time

Location

We regret to inform you that this Webinar has been postponed until further notice

Please note

    • If you have never used Zoom before, we recommend that you try the link 10 minutes before the start of the lecture.
    • Please feel free to write questions in the comment area and there will be time for questions/discussion at the end of the talk.
    • Please note that the session will be recorded and later featured on the SLN website. If you have concerns about this please let us know before the session.
Photo by ShanShui

Session 2: The Photographic Image, Ethics & Storytelling

Module 10

Behzad Larry has spent many years travelling across the snow leopard range capturing the stories of snow leopard individuals and communities. During this session he shares perspectives about using images (of snow leopards, people and landscapes) in communication and raise for discussion a number of very pertinent issues for snow leopard conservation- especially in the world where the image of the snow leopard is becoming so important! 
The session ends with a discussion led by Joanna Van Gruisen on ethics and examples of how conservationists can work towards putting in place safeguards and promoting good practices in the use of images for conservation communication- with a photographers manifesto.  

Session 2.1: The snow leopard image

Session 2.2: The community in images

Session 2.3: The landscape in images

Session 2.4: Photography and ethics

Session 2.5: The Photographer’s Manifesto

Valley of the Cats; community-based conservation tourism

The “Valley of the Cats” is the name given to a spectacular valley close to the town of Namsei (Angsai) in Zadoi (Zaduo) County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province. Situated on the Tibetan Plateau, the Valley of the Cats is a special place. The 22 resident families, each with their own herd of yak, hold strict Buddhist beliefs about the sanctity of all life.

昂赛“大猫谷”是青藏高原上一片未受破坏的野生动物栖息地,它位于青海省玉树藏族自治州杂多县昂赛乡。这里的22户牧民接待家庭信仰着藏传佛教。敬畏众生的理念使人、野生动物与自然在这里和谐共存.

Although the Valley of the Cats is situated in the core area of Sanjiangyuan (the source of the three great rivers – the Yellow, the Yangtze and the Mekong), China’s first pilot National Park, and access is strictly controlled (permits are required and independent travel is not permitted), the local government has agreed to low-volume community-based tourism for up to three groups involving a maximum of 12 people at a time. This is a community-based conservation initiative where 100% of the revenue from this project stays in the community.

昂赛位于三江源的核心区域,是三江源国家公园的组成部分。昂赛的进入受到严格的管控,外来人员需要申请许可证,获政府批准后才能进入。从2018年起,三江源国家公园澜沧江源园区昂赛管护站、当地政府同意接受少量的自然体验游。同一时间段内最多三支团队,总计不超过十二人可以进入昂赛。

Wildlife watching tourism, as a community conservation initiative, has been designed to contribute to the local community and snow leopard conservation. 100% of the revenue from tourism stays with the local community. 45% of the income will go to the host family, 45% to a community fund (for public welfare issues such as health insurance) and 10% to snow leopard conservation.

自然体验将助力于当地社区发展和雪豹保护。45%的自然体验收入属于接待家庭,另外的45%将投入社区基金 (用于社会福利事业,如医保),剩下的10%将用于雪豹保护.

The Valley is 3-4 hrs drive from Yushu which, in turn, is a 1-hour flight from Xining in Qinghai Province.

昂赛“大猫谷”距离玉树市大约三至四小时车程。从青海省西宁市乘坐一小时飞机即可到达玉树市。

***Please note that professional photographers or film makers, or any filming for commercial purposes, requires an additional special permit from the National Parks Authority. Anyone wishing to film in the Valley for commercial purposes will be required to prove they are in possession of such a permit before an application to visit will be accepted.***

Acknowledgements

The community-based tourism project in the Valley of the Cats is a community initiative. The community would like to thank 三江源国家公园管理局 (The Sanjiangyuan [Three-River-Source] National Park Administration)、玉树州人民政府 (Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefectural People’s Government)、玉树州林草局 (Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefectural Forestry and Grassland Administration)、杂多县人民政府 (Zaduo County People’s Government) and the 国家公园澜沧江源园区管委会 (Three-River-Source National Park Administration Commission of Langcang-River-Source Zone) for their guidance and support.

The community-based conservation in the Valley of the Cats is implemented by ShanShui Conservation Center 山水自然保护中心and supported by 阿拉善SEE(The SEE FOUNDATION),Panthera,Snow Leopard Trust, 膳魔师 (THERMOS),安迪维特(Advanturer) and 广州博冠(BOSMA).

Status of snow leopards in China Report

 

The report, entitled “Status of Snow Leopard Survey and Conservation, China 2018” was a collaborative effort by a number of organizations involved in snow leopard surveying and protection in China and summarizes recent snow leopard research and conservation activities.

The report was produced in a joint effort by the Snow Leopard Network China (http://www.snowleopardchina.org/) – a network of national academic groups and NGOs including the Snow Leopard Trust’s China partner; Shan Shui Conservation Center, the Research Centre for Nature Conservation and Social Development of Peking University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Vanke Foundation, Everest Snow Leopard Conservation Centre, Green River, Xinjiang, WCS, and WWF.

PDF of Report in CHINESE

PDF of Report in ENGLISH

Crowd funding used for snow leopard conservation in India

Source: http://www.siliconindia.com/realestate/news/WWFIndia-Joins-Hands-with-Tata-Housing-to-Create-CrowdFunding-Campaign-nid-159422.html

WWF-India Joins Hands with Tata Housing to Create Crowd-Funding Campaign

Monday, January 13, 2014
New Delhi: In a significant step towards garnering more support and awareness for snow leopard conservation in India, WWF-India, in partnership with Tata Housing Development Company, launched Project Save Our Snow Leopards (SOS) by unveiling the SOS online crowd-funding platform (www.wwfindia.org/sos) at an event at the WWF-India auditorium on January 10, 2014.

The SOS crowd-funding campaign is the first-ever crowd-funded campaign for species conservation in India, giving individuals a chance to support and directly fund conservation projects. Through the SOS campaign, WWF-India, along with Tata Housing, will build awareness about the conservation issues facing the snow leopard and will aim to raise at least Rs15,00,000 through the crowd-funding platform. The funds raised will be utilised to scale up WWF’s snow leopard conservation projects, like setting up camera traps to study the exact status and distribution of snow leopards in range states, and support the construction of predator-proof livestock pens for local communities in snow leopard habitats that will help in managing snow leopard-human conflict. The campaign will be spearheaded jointly by both organisations and reach out to potential supporters through social and other online media. Tata Housing will also reach out to the Tata group of companies, soliciting support for the SOS campaign through ‘Green Guardians’, an employee engagement initiative.

Tata Housing Development Company, the biggest proponent of green housing in India, became a WWF-India conservation partner in 2012. Tata Housing has also worked with WWF-India to refine their Sustainability Charter, which outlines their commitment towards following environmental sustainability practices in housing development. WWF-India and Tata Housing will also work together to convene forums to promote sustainable housing across the housing infrastructure sector and exchange best practices relating to sustainable housing.

On the occasion, Brotin Banerjee, CEO and managing director, Tata Housing Development Company, said, ‘At Tata Housing, we feel it is important to maintain the ecological balance of natural flora and fauna in the environment, along with creating sustainable green development that help to prevent environmental degradation. Our partnership with WWF-India is in line with our efforts to safeguard and conserve India’s unique natural heritage of high-altitude wildlife populations and their habitats. We hope our efforts to save the snow leopard will result in maintaining the required ecological balance.’

Speaking on the necessity of such steps in snow leopard conservation, Ravi Singh, secretary general and CEO, WWF-India, said, ‘Snow leopards are strikingly beautiful, but sadly very few people are even aware of their existence. Due to the high altitude and difficult terrain they inhabit, snow leopards are also one of the least studied large wild cats, which in turn makes their conservation all the more difficult. By protecting the snow leopard, we ensure the conservation of our fragile mountain landscapes that are one of the biggest sources of freshwater for the Indian subcontinent. We hope this campaign will not only raise the required funds for the snow leopard, but also make people more aware about this magnificent species.’

Through Project SOS, both WWF-India and Tata Housing will continue to work with the central and respective state governments to assess the status and distribution of snow leopards and strategise conservation actions. Local communities will also be engaged to increase awareness about wildlife conservation, and build a positive attitude towards the snow leopard by sharing the results of such conservation efforts.

Sources by : Tata Group

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:

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/snow-leopards-become-video-stars-in-students-plan-to-save-them-20130602-2njqv.html

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.

AAP

 

Unlikely conservationist helping to save Nepal’s snow leopards


‘Yak insurance’ plan saving Nepal’s snow leopard

KATHMANDU: The remorse felt by Himali Chungda Sherpa after he killed three snow leopard cubs in retaliation for his lost cattle inspired him to set up a scheme to prevent other herders from doing the same.

Sherpa lost his cattle near Ghunsa village at the base of Mount Kangchenjunga on the Nepal-India border, later finding their remains in a cave beside three sleeping snow leopard cubs.

The Nepalese herder put the cubs in a sack and threw them into the river, finding their bodies the next day.

“From that night onwards the mother snow leopard started crying from the mountain for her cubs, and my cattle were crying for the loss of their calves.”

“I realised how big a sin I had committed and promised myself that I would never do such a thing in the future.”

Four years ago Sherpa, 48, founded with other locals an insurance plan for livestock that conservationists say is deterring herders from killing snow leopards that attack their animals.

In doing so the scheme has given hope for the endangered cat, whose numbers across the mountains of 12 countries in south and central Asia are thought to have declined by 20 percent over the past 16 years.

Under the scheme, herders pay in 55 rupees a year for each of their hairy yaks, the vital pack animal that is also kept for milk and meat, and are paid 2,500 rupees for any animal killed by the endangered cat.

“The (Himalayan) communities have been able to pay out compensation for more than 200 animals since the scheme started,” WWF Nepal conservation director Ghana Gurung told reporters at a presentation in the capital Kathmandu.

“The community members are the ones that monitor this, they are the ones who do the patrolling and they are the ones who verify the kills.”

The global snow leopard population is estimated at just 4,080-6,590 adults according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which lists the animal as “endangered” on its red list of threatened species.

Experts believe just 300 to 500 adults survive in Nepal, and few can claim ever to have seen the secretive, solitary “mountain ghost”, which lives 5,000 to 6,000 metres above sea level.

Despite its name, it is not a close relative of the leopard and has much more in common genetically with the tiger, though it is thought to have a placid temperament.

“There has never been a case of a snow leopard attacking a human,” Gurung said of the animal, revered for its thick grey patterned pelt.

It does, however, have a taste for sheep, goats and other livestock essential for the livelihoods of farmers and is often killed by humans either as a preventative measure or in revenge for the deaths of their animals.

WWF Nepal revealed details of its insurance scheme in filmed interviews shown at the recent Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival.

Sherpa now campaigns to convince Himalayan farmers that killing snow leopards is wrong, but has been frequently told they need to kill the animal to protect their livelihoods.

“I swear if I can catch a snow leopard. They rob our animals and our source of livelihood,” herder Chokyab Bhuttia told the WWF.

The insurance plan, which also covers sheep and goats, was set up with 1.2 million rupees donated by the University of Zurich.

Since the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Snow Leopard Insurance plan was launched four years ago no snow leopard is thought to have been killed in retaliation for preying on livestock since.

Locals, who count the number of cattle attacked as well as tracks, faecal pellets and scratches in the ground, believe snow leopard numbers have significantly increased.

“There is now an awareness among people that the snow leopard is an endangered animal and we have to protect it. The insurance policy has made people more tolerant to the loss of their livestock,” Sherpa said.

He believes protecting the snow leopard is vital to boosting the economy in an area which gets just a few hundred trekkers a year, compared with 74,000 in Annapurna.

“If a tourist sees a snow leopard and takes a picture of it there will be publicity of our region and more tourists will come,” Sherpa said.

Evidence of the scheme’s benefits will remain anecdotal until the publication next year of the results of a wide-ranging camera trapping survey.

But locals are optimistic about the animal’s future, according to Tsheten Dandu Sherpa, chairman of the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Management Council.

“In this area there was never any poaching of snow leopards for trade. They were killed only as a retaliatory act by livestock owners,” he said.

“Now with this insurance policy there will definitely be protection of the snow leopard and its numbers will increase.”

-AFP/fl

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/featurenews/view/1244527/1/.html, http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\12\28\story_28-12-2012_pg14_7