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).

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

Jumolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program Launched

The Bhutan Foundation recently announced the Jumolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program, which engages two communities located in snow leopard habitat, to conserve snow leopards in the area of the Jumolhari trek. This program is supported by the Snow Leopard Conservancy, Jigme Dorji National Park, the Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division, and the Bhutan Foundation.

Bhutan Foundation announcement is as follows:

An initiative of Yutoed and Yaksa communities

“The Jumolhari trek is one of the most popular trekking routes in Bhutan and passes through prime snow leopard and blue sheep habitat. Numerous camera trap photos, signs, and DNA sampling from the region has established the region as one of the best snow leopard habitats in Bhutan. The two communities of Soe Yutoed and Soe Yaksa lie along the Jumolhari trek. Yutoed has 28 households and Yaksa 18. The residents are primarily yak herders as the area is mostly above treeline. While yak predation is prevalent in the area, the herders have generally been tolerant of some level of predation all along. However, public attitudes and perception towards snow leopards are fast changing.

When community members begin to see real, tangible benefits from snow leopard conservation, they are more likely to support it. If a conservation program has buy-in and ownership of the local residents, it is more likely to be sustainable in the long run. These are the foundations on which the Jumolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program is built.

The Jumolhari Snow Leopard Conservation is a community initiative supported by the Jigme Dorji National Park, the Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division, the Snow Leopard Conservancy and the Bhutan Foundation. It aims to guide tangible benefits of snow leopard conservation to the local residents so that the snow leopard is seen as an asset rather than a liability, and hence something to be treasured. It seeks to use the snow leopard as the focus for holistic development of the communities through the following:

* Reduction of GID disease in yak (one of the highest causes of yak mortality)
* Offsetting livestock predation through livestock insurance
* Income generation through homestays
* Income generation through boutique handicraft
* Snow leopard and prey monitoring by community members and park
* Instituting snow leopard festival as main tourism event of the year
* Using Soe Yutoed School for increasing awareness on snow leopard conservation

For further information on this exciting new program please contact us at info@bhutanfound.org”

Sources: http://bhutanfound.org, http://snowleopardconservancy.org/2013/01/21/bhutan/

Saving the Snow Leopard With Microfinance

Read more:

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/special/environment/eng/saving-the-snow-leopa
rd-with-microfinance.html#ixzz27fNu9J7M>

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/special/environment/eng/saving-the-snow-leopar
d-with-microfinance.html#ixzz27fNu9J7M
The Moscow Times

ULUGAN, Altai Republic – In the mountain villages of southern Siberia
where Russia abuts China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, the price of sheep’s wool has increased tenfold since 2009. Once, it could be bought for 5 rubles a kilogram, but today local farmers are reluctant to sell for less than 50 rubles ($1.56) a kilogram. Few are troubled about the rising cost, however, which is driven by demand from local craftsmen making clothes, tapestries, toys and knickknacks for the region’s growing tourist market.
With no rail links, the Altai republic has long been accessible only to local visitors and the most adventurous. Some believe it contains the Russian gateway to Shambhala, the mythical paradise of Buddhist tradition. But this remoteness looks set to fade as infrastructure improves and officials, foreign donors, environmental activists and inhabitants foster a tourist boom. A renovated airport was opened in the local capital, Gorno-Altaisk, in 2011,and S7 Airlines began flying the four-hour route from Moscow in June of that year.
During the 2012 tourist season – June, July and August – traffic increased 12.5 percent year on year, and officials are looking to have 3 million tourist visits annually by 2020.
In addition to its spectacular mountain scenery, one of the region’s biggest attractions is the beauty of some of Russia’s most endangered animals: saker falcons, argali mountain sheep and, above all, snow leopards.

Common Ground

Far from being feared, the rise in tourism is welcomed, and encouraged, by officials and conservationists alike.
The uptick in visitor numbers provides new sources of revenue and offers an alternative to poaching, which has brought some native animals to the brink of extinction.
“The idea is for people to understand that it is profitable to protect rare species,” said Mikhail Paltsyn, the Altai co-coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund, who has studied snow leopards for two decades.
The number of snow leopards, which are relatively easy to catch in traps because of their predictable habits, plunged in the 1990s as centrally subsidized agriculture collapsed and left people with few options other than the trade in carcasses and pelts.
The rare predators can also cause carnage if they get inside cattle or sheep pens, said Paltsyn, prompting local farmers to kill them to preserve their flocks.
Snow leopards are now extremely rare in the Altai republic, so the capture of one adult leopard on a video sensor last year caused much rejoicing.
As part of a drive to save the snow leopard, since 2009 the WWF has partnered with Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citibank, to fund projects to raise awareness of the revenue that could be generated from tourists drawn by the elusive felines.
The many souvenirs available at roadside stands throughout the region featuring the snow leopard, from woolen dolls to wall-size tapestries, may be one sign of success.

Budding Entrepreneurs

But about 10 kilometers outside the small town of Saratan, in the Altai republic’s Ulugan region, Aiyara Yerkemenova, 20, is engaged in something more substantial. She used a 70,000 ruble ($2,188) microloan distributed by local organizations on behalf of Citi Foundation to build a small museum on land perched above a tumbling mountain stream along the road from Ulugan to Saratan.
Yerkemenova, who has a small child and a husband serving in the Army, is obligated to pay back the money within 18 months but hopes to add guest rooms, a ***banya*** and a small restaurant to the complex. The project was her mother’s idea, she said.
Tourists in the area often approach locals to request assistance with hiking and horse riding and to ask about places to camp and buy food, Saratan Mayor Aidar Akchin said.
This sort of project is a way of formalizing these needs and earning money, turning “wild tourists,” who travel with everything they need, into cash cows dependent on local facilities.
“It’s work for people and comfort for the tourists,” he said.
Budding businesswomen like Yerkemenova, whose creditworthiness is low by the standards of any bank, would otherwise struggle to find money for business developments.
“Who else will finance these people?” asked Tatyana Pakhayeva, the head of local fund Sodeistviye, which is one of the organizations chosen by the WWF to distribute Citibank’s cash. Loans are usually between 20,000 and 150,000 rubles, she said.
Sodeistviye evolved from a United Nations Development Program project that ended operations in the area in 2008.
At first, Citi Foundation’s money was handed out via grants, but the foundation switched to loans in 2012 as a more effective way to incentivize entrepreneurship. This year, 1.7 million rubles ($56,900) has been
distributed to 40 recipients.
In her experience with microloans, no one had ever been brought to court for nonpayment, said Pakhayeva. Extensions are granted and debts partly dissolved if necessary.

Gaining Popularity

Tourism is increasing, said Igor Kalmykov, director of the Altai National Park, and it now stands at a level not seen since Soviet times. Growth was about 10 to 15 percent a year, he added.
Citibank funding also helps run seminars and courses for local people that teach basic craftsmanship. There is a focus on the manipulation of wool into felt souvenirs, clothes and wall hangings, hence the rise in wool prices. Classes also cover ceramics skills and techniques for making jewelry from bones and teeth of nonendangered fauna.
Some teachers for these workshops have to be brought in from other countries, like Kyrgyzstan, because local traditions were forgotten under communism.
Kalambina Zhilkovskaya, who lives in Gorno-Altaisk, said that she taught herself to work with wool by watching television programs and that the skill provides her with a useful source of income during the tourist season. But she also wants to develop her talents and be able to make more than curiosities.
“People are in love with natural clothes these days,” she said.

Preservation Side Effect

A primary aim of the Citibank Foundation globally is to encourage small businesses and reduce poverty. Although the Altai republic’s 200,000-strong population is mainly involved in farming, unemployment in some pockets of the territory reaches 90 percent. But aside from alleviating rural poverty and encouraging small business, the microloans and training seminars have also achieved some success in preserving Altai’s indigenous wildlife, local activists said.
Snow leopards are not the only animals in danger. The region’s rare saker falcons are also under threat. Poachers catch the birds and smuggle them across the border into Mongolia or Kazakhstan, where dealers arrange their shipment to wealthy clients in the Middle East who prize them as hunting animals.
It is difficult to catch the hunters. Just 40 park rangers protect the mountainous confines of Altai National Park, which borders the Tyva and Khakasia republics and covers more than 880,000 hectares, 10 percent of the entire Altai republic. Poachers can be criminally charged only if they are caught pulling the trigger or untangling a carcass from a trap, Kalmykov said.
But in recent years, the number of illegal hunters caught has declined 11 percent annually in the Altai-Sayansk region, Paltsyn said.
Poaching, however, is not just the work of locals, who can be redirected to work in the tourist industry.
In a notorious 2009 incident, a helicopter crashed in the Altai Mountains, killing seven of the 11 people on board, including top government officials, who, judging by the carcasses in the aircraft, had been illegally hunting the rare argali mountain sheep.
Encouraging tourism contains many other risks apart from gun-toting officials, including littering and uncontrolled development.
Most people on the ground are aware of the drawbacks of tourism but still see it as the key to preserving the wildlife of the Altai.
Huge numbers of tourists are unlikely, said Paltsyn, who doubts that the region’s burgeoning popularity could have a negative effect on its natural treasures.
“It’s more exclusive tourism than mass tourism,” he said.

Healthy populations of predator and prey documented in MisgarChapurson, Gilgit-Baltistan

Thanks to SLN member Ali Nawaz for distributing this press release to the SLN.

SNOW LEOPARD FOUNDATION

“Abundance of signs suggest a healthy population of snow leopards in Misgar-Chapurson”, says Hussain Ali from Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF) on completion of a month long site occupancy surveys in Misgar and Chapurson valleys, Hunza-Nagar, GilgitBaltistan.  He explains objective of this survey was to explore presence/abundance of snow leopards and other sympatric carnivores in the area, as well as their conflicts with the local community.

A team comprising of four experienced researchers (Hussain and Yunus from SLF, Sher Muhammad (WCS), and Ikramullah Goher from GB Wildlife Department) and four assistants scanned a total of 63 girds (5×5 km), spreading over an area of about 2500 sq. km, within Misgar and Chapurson valleys, and documented signs of the carnivore community through standard protocol.  Signs of the snow leopard were most common followed by the wolf, and brown bear.  For the purpose of genetic analysis, SLF team collected about 100 fecal samples of the snow leopard.  Genetic samples were also collected for wolf, brown bear, and red fox.  The other wildlife encountered during the survey included Himalayan ibex, golden marmot, cape hare, and stone martin.

image
Snow Leopard scat and pug mark observed in MisgarChapurson

Population of a predator like snow leopard cannot sustain its existence without the availability of its natural prey.  Thus a balance between the populations of predator and prey ensures health and functionality of an ecosystem.  The SLF team assessed population of wild ungulates in the two valleys by adapting double observer method, a new technique recently developed by the SLT for ungulate surveys.  The team sighted 19 Himalayan ibex in Chapurson and 83 in three different herds in Misgar valley.  Relevant statistics estimates a population of about 150 ibex, indicating a healthy prey population to support snow leopards.  The team also explored presence of Marco Polo sheep in the area, which has been reported in the past.  Our team did not encounter this species during the survey, however local community report that Marco Polo sheep do visit Misgar Valley occasionally from the neighboring China.

The local community’s perception about carnivores was generally negative, as the human-carnivore conflict has high prevalence in the both valleys, predominantly due to livestock predation.  The SLF team encountered quite a few livestock carcasses during the survey. Poaching and overgrazing are major threats to wildlife in the both valleys.  Watch and ward by the GB wildlife department need to be improved. Conservation programs addressing humancarnivore conflicts can enhance acceptance of snow leopards and other larger carnivores in the area.

The Snow Leopard Foundation carried out this study in conjunction with GB Wildlife Department, and Wildlife Conservation Society.  We are thankful to the Chapurson Local Support Organization, Youth Organization of Misgar for providing support during the field surveys.  SLN’s Snow Leopard Conservation Grant provided field cost of this study.

image
A herd of Himalayan ibex sighted at Dilsung, Misgar Valley, GB

image
A carcass of sheep killed by Snow Leopard in Misgar valley, GB

Snow Leopard Conservation Project Voted Number One in Competition Hosted by BBC World News and Newsweek

Wildlife Charity Wins World Challenge Competition
Snow Leopard Conservation Project Voted Number One in Competition Hosted by BBC World News and Newsweek

November 30th, 2011—Seattle, WA
A program developed by the Snow Leopard Trust, a Seattle-based conservation organization, has won first place in the World Challenge. The program, called ‘Snow Leopard Enterprises,’ was created to protect endangered snow leopards in Mongolia. It was one of 12 projects selected for the global World Challenge competition run by BBC World News and Newsweek Magazine in association with Shell.

Snow Leopard Enterprises was chosen by World Challenge as an innovative business model that also benefits the environment. The program helps herders in Mongolia make and sell fine wool handicrafts to increase their income. In turn, herders sign conservation contracts pledging to protect snow leopards living in their area.

“Snow Leopard Enterprise works with over 250 families in Mongolia to protect snow leopards and improve the quality of life for herder families,” says Brad Rutherford, Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, who visited with program participants in August. In 2010, every pledge to protect snow leopards was upheld and snow leopards were kept safe across over 25 communities. “Through Snow Leopard Enterprises, we’re improving the conservation status of snow leopards across roughly 50,000 square kilometers of prime snow habitat in Mongolia,” says Rutherford, “and thanks to the World Challenge we’ve been able to increase recognition and support for this important program.”

More than 600 proposals were submitted to World Challenge in 2011, from which a panel of judges selected 12 projects to compete. According to BBC World News, over 70,000 voted were cast for the 12 projects and the top three winners were chosen based solely on the number of public votes.

With the most number of votes, Snow Leopard Enterprises earned the coveted top spot in the competition. As a first place winner, the Snow Leopard Trust will receive a cash prize of $20,000 to advance conservation for snow leopards and Snow Leopard Enterprises will be featured in international versions of Newsweek Magazine and on BBC World News. The awards ceremony will be televised by BBC on December 3rd, 2011.

Every Snow Leopard Enterprises handicraft is unique, handcrafted, and represents a promise to protect snow leopards. The crafts are available through the Snow Leopard Trust’s online store snowleopard.org/shop with sales benefiting snow leopard conservation.


About the Snow Leopard Trust

Snow leopards are one of the most endangered big cats in the world with only 4,000-6,500 believed to be left in the wild. The Snow Leopard Trust is a non-profit organization founded in 1981 whose mission is to protect snow leopards and their mountain ecosystem through a balanced approach that addresses the needs of local people and the environment. Snow Leopard Enterprises is the flagship program of the Snow Leopard Trust and has been active in Mongolia for over a decade. More information at www.snowleopard.org


Related links:

A video about Snow Leopard Enterprises made for the World Challenge can be found http://www.theworldchallenge.co.uk/finalists/8/changing_spots

Addition content available at:

youtube.com/snowleopardtrust

blog.snowleopard.org

snowleopard.org.

facebook.com/snowleopard.org


CONTACT:

Makenna O’Meara

Work: 206.632.2421

Cell: 206.290.4613

Email: Makenna@snowleopard.org

Of Tea and Snow Leopards, editorial by SLN member Shafqat Hussain

April 28, 2011

Baltistan, Post-Mortenson
Of Tea and Snow Leopards
By SHAFQAT HUSSAIN

OK, maybe just one cup of tea and not three, and just three schools not eleven. Whatever the truth about numbers, Greg Mortenson did a commendable job of building some schools in the peaceful and never-Talibanised Baltistan, and some in restless and Talibanised Afghanistan and Waziristan. But Mortenson’s story is not really about Greg or the numbers. Rather it is about something else.

The persistent scrutiny of his personal behavior or financial malpractices obfuscates that something else. Even in the failure of Mortenson the person, Mortenson the ‘state project’ continues to succeed. To differentiate between the person and the ‘state project’ his deceit and failures are not significant; what’s important is how he could be successful in the first place, and what his success has to do with the state.

How could Mortenson’s charity get away with the deceit for so long without being noticed? Did it have something to do with intimate usage of Mortenson and his book by the US military as part of its counter-insurgency strategy? The Pentagon made Three Cups of Tea required reading, buying copies in bulk. Mortenson went along with them, playing the game and getting dizzy on the fame, attention, and power that came from this connection. He dined with celebrities and diplomats and flew on a black hawk helicopter with US Generals. Current and former presidents donated money to his charity and he was nominated for the Nobel Prize. Mortenson became a non-governmental ‘state project.’ He was the soft face of American power, used to win hearts and minds overseas and used to quell domestic anxieties about the fairness of the war.

Mortenson’s story is certainly about human fallibility and the corrupting influence of adulation from above. But it is also about informal state projects; informal because these projects are not planned, initiated and explicitly funded by the state. Strategic imperatives makes a person’s career anopportunity for the state. Mortenson’s work as a humanitarian and a social development worker in Afghanistan and Pakistan became of strategic importance to the US state in the midst of the Afghan war in which it was losing both the hearts and minds of the Afghan and Pakistani people, and the patience and support of the American people.

But before there was Greg Mortenson, there was Leo the snow leopard. They are two ‘state projects’ that bear comparison.

In 2005 an orphaned snow leopard, later to be named Leo, was found by a villager in northern Pakistan, incidentally the same region where Mortenson works. The local wildlife department took charge of the leopard. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) which runs the Bronx Zoo in New York City found out about the cub and became interested in bringing the cub over to the zoo forbreeding purposes. The zoo sent a request to the local authorities through the US embassy in Islamabad and within a matter of months, the US State Department was involved. Soon afterwards Leo was officially handed over to the Americans in a ceremony in Islamabad in the summer of 2006 in which the US Ambassador to Pakistan was the chief guest. Leo got his visas and came to New York. A second ceremony took place here. The US Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs was a central guest.

In the eyes of the US State, Leo’s story was about the use of international diplomacy to save biodiversity and the environment. In thesame way as Penguin and the Pentagon packaged Mortenson’s story (with a children’s book version of Three Cups), so too did the Bronx Zoo publish Leo the Snow Leopard (2010) to allow children to cultivate their view of the USState as magnanimous and environmentalist. Leo the Snow Leopard was packaged for a domestic audience, with parents soothing their children to sleep with comforting stories of the good, kind US State saving baby snow leopards from dangerous places.

Mortenson’s book is a story of the US bringing social development to the poor and oppressed, rescuing them from dangerous people in dangerous places; Leo’s book is a story of the US saving wildlife from those dangerous places and dangerous people. In both stories, an American hero lies at the heart of the tale. Leo’s story is not as popular as Mortenson’s, but it is along the same grain:

When the Wildlife Conservation Society learned of the Leo’s plight, they knew they had to do something. There was a special place that could save Leo: the world-famous Bronx zoo in New York… After a rescue that involved treacherous, winding treks in the Himalayas, an extra-ordinary partnership between Pakistan and United States, and the help of dozens of dedicated people, Leo is making the Bronx Zoo his new home.

Thankfully the analogy between Leo and Mortenson stops here as there are no financial scams and fudging of numbers involved in Leo’s story; the Bronx Zoo and WCS are respectable and credible institutions. Both Leo’s and Mortensen’s stories, however, present the US State work in Pakistan and Afghanistan to the domestic audience and to some in Pakistan, as being not about war, bombs and imperialism, but rather about heart-warming things such as wildlife, schools, and people doing good. Both saving snow leopards and building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan are noble and worthy causes, but these are not the things that the US and its citizens should be focusing their attention on.

Apart from a few books (Ann Jones’ Winter in Kabul), there are not many popular accounts of the other side of the US State project in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are no children’s books on how the US government, in the 1980s, sponsored the production of bilious textbooks for the jihadis, whose daughters Mortenson is trying to educate. Unless we understand this history, and how that history continues to haunt us today and provide the social and political conditions in which people like Mortenson become heroes, we may bring down Mortenson the person but not Mortenson the project.

Shafqat Hussain is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. In 2008, he won the National Geographic Society’s Emerging Explorer Award for his work, over the last eighteen years on social development and conservation in the Gilgit-Baltistan area, where Mortenson began his project.

http://www.counterpunch.org/hussain04282011.html

From Yellowstone to the Karakorums: A journey to understand conflicts with large carnivores

Written by SLN member Tanya Rosen, NRCC Research Associate.

Reprinted from: NRCC News (Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative) annual newsletter: bridging science and policy to advance conservation. Fall 2010, issue 23(1). 12-13.

It is a warm July evening and the bus of the Northern Areas Transportation Company has just pulled into Skardu, after a 29-hour exhilarating drive along the Karakorum Highway from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Mesmerized by the unearthly beauty of the Karakorum mountains, I step off the bus with Rich Harris of the University of Montana. We are greeted with a warm smile by Ghulam Mohammad, the manager of Project Snow Leopard of the Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization (BWCDO).

In 1999, Shafqat Hussain, a conservationist and anthropologist, founded Project Snow Leopard (PSL), focused on creating incentives for snow leopard conservation in villages in Gilgit- Baltistan. Ghulam soon joined the organization. Whereas in the past farmers would normally retaliate against livestock losses by killing snow leopards, Shafqat proposed that farmers set aside a
collective pool of money equal to the value of the average annual loss rate. In his words, “The loss of livestock would then be a mild setback for the entire community rather than a devastating
loss for a farmer alone.” That idea led to the development of an insurance-like scheme with two components: a collective insurance fund managed by the community’s Snow Leopard Conservation Committee (SLCC) and a second fund managed by BWCDOPSL that is ideally funded by income from an eco-tourism venture focused on snow-leopard viewing called Full Moon Night Trekking. !e premiums are relatively low and the compensation that is disbursed when the animal is lost to snow leopards is subsidized with money from the second fund.

Snow leopards are beautiful cats that use their thick fluffy tail for balancing. They are agile hunters of the ungulates that inhabit the Karakorums: ibex and markhor. But a decrease in wild prey due to hunting and poaching has varied their diet. A diet that now includes domestic livestock. They are very hard to spot in the wild where they blend in well with their surrounding landscape; but when they come in villages or summer pastures to attack livestock, they are easier to catch, especially in instances of surplus killing when they kill more than they need for food and surprisingly don’t always flee the killing scene.

Eleven years later, the Project has expanded into 9 villages. I am excited to be here, to help in the expansion of the project and to learn as well. Since I am working on similar conflicts for Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Yellowstone, I have a feeling that the work that Shafqat and Ghulam do here can help back home.

After a night in Skardu, we leave with Ghulam for Hushey in Ganche District, where we will join Shafqat and engage in community dialogues to assess their satisfaction with Project Snow Leopard’s insurance scheme. We drive for six hours, stopping to take in more of the landscape and basking in the dramatic contrasts of light and height.

Hushey is a small village in the shadow of Masherbrum. Many trekkers and climbers come through on their way to climbing the largest concentration of 8000 metre-and-up peaks in the world. Boys and girls are running around and happy to practice their English learned from Oxford University Press books in the private school subsidized entirely by the village and their families.

We sit on a small veranda sipping chai tea and eating chapatti bread. People come to greet us and we begin to talk. In my extremely modest Urdu vocabulary I rely on my hands and eyes to
express how happy I am to be with them, how inspiring to know what they are doing for the snow leopard. I look up…and wonder if hidden and camouflaged in the rocks there is one just staring at
me now.

That night, sitting outside my tent, I look at the contours of the mountains in the dark: it’s Lailat ul Bara’h, a holiday when Muslims seek forgiveness for their sins and believe that on this night one’s destiny is fixed for the year ahead. I sense Hushey is a place I will be coming back to for years to come.

The following morning, we meet with the members of the Snow Leopard Conservation Committee. Shafqat starts the meeting by introducing Rich and me. He explains that we are here to understand the work that has been done, help make it sustainable, and identify research opportunities that can produce data to show that the hard work and commitment of Hushey is paying off: namely that conflict has decreased and snow leopard and ibex populations have increased. I also add that I am here to learn for my work back in Yellowstone, where the social tolerance for carnivores is dropping dramatically. Given how precarious livelihoods are in this region, I am still amazed that people here would want to do conservation.

With my experience in Yellowstone, I have been thinking more and more that conservation is for wealthy people. It is easy to love and care for wildlife that does not threaten your life and your
economic activities. So I was surprised to hear one of the elders say that “the decision to take proactive measures to protect the snow leopard” was a decision “taken by the community and not a tall order coming from a conservation organization.” As the leader of the village Snow Leopard Conservation Committee tells me, with Shafqat and Ghulam translating, Hushey “wants to protect the snow leopard because it is proud to have an animal that so many people care about.”

Clearly not everyone feels that way…and if that was not the case I would probably not believe it. However, the combination of peer pressure, coupled with the calls of the mullah of the local mosque that deeds against the snow leopard would not go unpunished, tell me that Hushey has a true conservation success story to tell. I listen carefully. As people get more comfortable, with the conversation turning from a question-and-answer session to a free flowing dialogue, everyone chimes in with tales, views and feelings about experiencing livestock losses. Even with the insurance scheme in place, these people still take an incredible economic loss, as the compensation paid does not fully compensate the cost of the animal lost. The village has a very small economy with agriculture and livestock activities carried out only to meet local needs.
!ere is a relatively successful trophy hunting program that brings some cash and, since Hushey is en route to K2 and other peaks, there are some income opportunities for guides, porters and cooks, but the economic opportunities remain small. It was incredible that such a powerful conservation lesson came from such a place.

I turn to Shafqat, who started the whole program, but maintains an impressive modesty. He does not talk about himself or the awards he’s received for the project. In Hushey, he blends in. But when he talks, his narrative is magical and persuasive. He cares about the people and the snow leopard, not the renown he might get from it. Ghulam is the same; the species and the people are the most important thing about the project for both of them.

!e next stop is Baisha, a neighboring valley where the economic opportunities are even more limited. Thanks to the expert hands of driver Mansour, we safely negotiate narrow roads, some washed out by roaring streams or blocked by massive boulders that luckily decided to tumble down before or after we passed. Many villages in Baisha are accessible only on foot or via cable over the river. Because of their location and access difficulties, places like Sibiri, Zill, and Doko are more cut-off from income generating opportunities, like portering or trophy hunting. Development aid has not arrived there yet either, at least not as visibly as in Hushey. In one of the villages, the teacher of the local government school shows up only one day out of every four.
!e private school is expensive for the farmers, and families choose to educate their sons first, which leaves 67 girls out of school.

Talking about snow leopard conservation in the context of such problems with the education system and a lack of primary healthcare is really hard. We learn that the need to protect their
limited economic resources has driven people in this valley to poison snow leopards. The demand for snow leopard fur has exacerbated this practice. But, once again, surprisingly the people from Sibiri choose to protect the snow leopard.

Back in Skardu, hell has broken loose. The Karakorum Highway is closed. The angry and dark Indus River we saw on the way up to Skardu, full and seemingly in a hurry to reach the plains, was not the norm. Bridges have collapsed — once again either before or after we arrived, but we are stuck. We scout the sky and hope for the clouds to open up enough for a plane to land to take us back to Islamabad. I am not ready to leave though. I have learned so much from the way people live here, and I hope to come back soon, perhaps this spring. !e warmth of the people I talked to cut through barriers of culture, gender, and religion and went straight to the core. You talk about wildlife and the hardships of life and you see that where you come from does not matter: nature, in this case in the shape of a wild cat and the challenges it poses, unites us.