Kyrgyzstan sets date for International Snow Leopard Conservation Forum

The State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry of Kyrgyzstan has announced that the International Snow Leopard Conservation Forum will be held in the upcoming months (in September according to one source, and October according to another).

If any Snow Leopard Network member who is planning to attend could send through more information, that would be greatly appreciated.

More information:

Rare snow leopards photgraphed by World Wildlife Fund

(AP) SRINAGAR, India – A pair of rare, reclusive snow leopards have been photographed wandering a remote, mountain region once ravaged by conflict between India and Pakistan.

Trap camera snow leopard image

Infrared camera traps set up months ago by World Wildlife Fund-India filmed the adult snow leopards in Kargil district just a few miles from the heavily militarized Line of Control that runs through the disputed territory of Kashmir.

WWF-India says it is the second photo sighting of endangered snow leopards in Kargil, after one was photographed hunting a herd of Asiatic Ibex in 2009.

Snow Leoaprd Trap Camera Image

The recent sighting has encouraged environmentalists as it suggests the big cats were not scared away from the Kargil mountains by the 1999 India-Pakistan conflict that killed hundreds of soldiers on both sides before a cease-fire was established with U.S. mediation.

Snow leopards are considered the most endangered of big cats and face threats from poaching, habitat loss and retaliatory killings by farmers for lost livestock.

They live in regions of extreme cold and harsh terrain and are difficult to study. Between 4,000 and 6,500 are believed left in the wild in the Himalayan regions of Afghanistan, Bhutan, Siberia, Mongolia, Pakistan and India.

Snow leopard diet determined by DNA analysis of fecal samples

Knowledge about animal diet can inform conservation strategy, but this information can be difficult to gather. A new DNA-based method, which analyzes genetic material from feces, could be a useful tool, and researchers have shown its utility to characterize the diet of snow leopards in Mongolia.

The full results are reported Feb. 29 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Analysis of DNA from 81 fecal samples showed that the leopards ate mostly Siberian ibex, followed by domestic goats and wild sheep. Most of the animals eaten were wild (79 %), with a relatively low proportion of domestic livestock (19.7 %). The authors, led by Pierre Taberlet of Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, write that the results help further the understanding of snow leopard feeding, which can help address related conservation and management issues.

Crime chiefs agree to get tough on illegal tiger trade

By Mark Kinver Environment reporter, BBC News

Crime chiefs from countries with populations of wild tigers have agreed to work together in order to combat the illegal trade in the big cats.

Heads of police and customs from 13 nations agreed to tighten controls and improve cross-border co-operation at a two-day meeting in Bangkok.

Only six subspecies remain, with fewer than 1,000 tigers in each group.

Smuggling of tiger parts is one of the main threats facing the planet’s remaining big cats, say experts.

The seminar in Thailand’s capital, organised by Interpol and hosted by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), was attended by 26 senior crime officials and representatives from partner organisations, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

‘Natural heritage abuse’

“[Our efforts to fight tiger crime] must not just result in seizures – they must result in prosecutions, convictions and strong penalties to stop the flow of contraband,” said John Scanlon, Cites secretary general.

“If we get the enforcement system right for the tiger, we will help save countless other species together with their ecosystems.”

Jean-Michel Louboutin, Interpol’s executive director of police services, observed: “This important seminar has highlighted the environmental crime challenges facing senior law enforcement officers, and the need for enhanced international co-operation.

“Criminals cannot prosper from abusing our shared national heritage.”

Delegates also used the meeting to formally endorse the Interpol-led Project Predator.

The initiative, launched in November 2011, has three main aims:

* organising collaborative, high-level international efforts to improve political will to tackle the problem of illegal trade in tiger parts
* transforming politicians’ will to act into tangible support from government departments and agencies
* training enforcement officers in the necessary skills

Project Predator is also encouraging countries to establish National Tiger Crime Task Forces, which will form working partnerships with Interpol, in order to provide “modern intelligence-led enforcement practices for tiger conservation”.

Interpol said the project would not be limited to the protection of tigers, but would extend to the all of Asia’s big cat species, such as the snow leopard and Asiatic lion, as these animals faced similar threats.

The meeting in Bangkok is the latest development in efforts to improve protection and conservation measures since a high-profile summit in November 2010 pledged to double the global population of tigers by 2022.

At the gathering in St Petersburg, Russia, senior political figures from the 13 range nations pledged to protect tiger habitats, address poaching, illegal trade and provide the financial resources for the plan.

Over the past century, tiger numbers have dropped from about 100,000 to about 4,000 tigers in the wild today.

And over the past decade, there has been a 40% decline, with conservationists warning that some populations were expected to disappear completely within 20 years unless urgent action was taken.

Power project in Uttarakhand hits green tribunal hurdle

Flowers will continue to bloom in the world heritage site Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand as the National Green Tribunal has stayed work on a controversial power project in buffer zone of the Valley that was approved by the environment ministry.

The tribunal this week stayed the approval given by the ministry to GMR Energy for cutting down trees in 60 hectare of forest land in the ecologically sensitive area for construction of the 300 MW Alaknanda-Badrinath hydroelectric project. The tribunal ordered no trees on the forest land proposed to be diverted shall be felled without its prior permission.

With this directive, work on the project could come to a halt for all practical reasons because the Supreme Court had earlier observed that work on non-forest lands of any project can’t be taken up if work on forest lands is held up due to some reason.

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) had denied clearance to the project twice in 2011 on grounds of adverse effects on the region’s ecology and wildlife. However, environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan overruled FAC and gave go-ahead to GMR last November. Subsequently, green groups challenged the clearance in the tribunal.

The power project falls in the buffer zone of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, which extends over two national parks-Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers-listed as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The region serves as a corridor for movement of snow leopard, brown bear and other wild species.

The FAC had observed that existing disturbance in the region such as pilgrim movements during summer, road construction and work on Vishnuprayag hydroelectric project had already seriously threatened ‘outstanding universal values’ of the Valley of Flowers. In order to preserve these values, the state government had declared a buffer zone which is also required to be conserved as the integrity of Valley depends on the zone.

Among wild habitats, the most affected would be the habitat of the snow leopard, an endangered species. Snow leopards require large and contiguous landscape and any fragmentation of their habitat poses a danger to their survival. The ministry’s own Project Snow Leopard suggests landscape approach to conservation of the species.

“Developmental projects in roads, barrages and hydel may have limited impact on large mammals on their own, but the process of building these structures can be more damaging. Blasting, movement of labour and vehicles can cause irreparable harm by disturbing habitat,” observed Yash Veer Bhatnagar, director, Snow Leopard Trust-India.

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Snow leopard reemerges in Chitral forests

CHITRAL, Jan 26: Snow leopard was spotted in the forests near Bakamak and Shali villages in Chitral district on Wednesday and Thursday after long disappearance.

An official of the local wildlife department told Dawn on Thursday that the big cat appeared near Bakamak and Shali areas but heavy snowfall forced it into moving to Toshi game reserve at lower altitude.

He said snow leopard hadn’t been seen in the area over the last two years amidst fears about its extinction.

People thronged the Garam Chashma Road to catch a glimpse of the leopard.

The wildlife department official said the big cat descended to the areas of low altitudes in search of food after heavy snow in forests and high mountains and that small animals, including markhor and ibex, were its cherished food.

People fear attacks on them and their livestock by the big cat, especially at nighttime.

Ejaz Ahmad, a biodiversity specialist, said snow leopard lived in areas alongside Hindu Kush range of mountains.

He said leopard was declared an endangered specie in the recent past but its population density later surged satisfactorily.

Mr Ejaz said massive grazing in alpine rangeland, human conflicts, climatic change and decline in snowfall had led to reduction in the number of leopards. He said WWF had launched a snow leopard welfare project in some Chitral villages.

Meanwhile, Dinar Shah, in his eighties and from Seen village, said previously, people used to guard their families and livestock at nighttime but installation of bulbs around the village had curtailed leopard attacks.

He said leopard’s attacks on people were very rare as it targeted livestock, especially goats, only. He said the former Chitral rulers banned leopard killing but lifted the ban in view of growing cases of its attacks on livestock.

Some regretted that leopard was poached in the area for skin, which had a great demand in national and international market, without let or hindrance. They demanded registration of cases against leopard poachers.

Embryonic stem cells may help in saving snow leopards: City scientist

LUCKNOW: The cultivation of embryonic stem-like cells made up from the tissue of an adult leopard, by Rajneesh Verma, has come as a ray of hope for scientists working to save the snow leopard. Rajneesh, a native of Lucknow is presently working at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

Rajneesh has pursued his studies from City Montessori School (till Class X) and Colvin Taluqdar’s (Class 12). After this he went to Australia from where he completed his BSc in biotechnology from Monash University. Having got a scholarship, he then joined MSc biotechnology, and is now a PhD student at Monash Institute of Medical Research (MIMR).

Elated on the discovery, his brother Maneesh said, “Rajneesh was fascinated with big cats since childhood. His findings prove that he is concerned about the extinction of the animal and hence putting all his efforts to save them. He will now apply the stem cell technique to other members of cat family, including the Bengal Tiger, and Jaguar.”

This study has been published in an international journal, Theriogenology. Rajneesh was supervised by Dr Paul Verma, also from MIMR.

It was through the use of ear tissue samples from adult snow leopards at Mogo Zoo, in New South Wales, Australia, that the researchers have generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) cells which share many properties of embryonic stem cells. Verma said that it is for the first time that iPS cells have been generated from a member of a cat family. According to him, the finding raises the possibility of cryopreservation of genetic material for future cloning and other assisted reproduction techniques.

The researchers said that the finding is significant as obtaining reproductive cells, or gametes, even from animals in captivity is a herculean task. Elaborating how the stem cell can save snow leopard, Verma said, “Stem cells can well differentiate between various cell types in the body. In other words, these cells have the potential to convert into gametes. In fact, mouse iPS cells have given birth to entire offspring.” Hence, the study benefits the conservation of cat species, and biodiversity.

The researchers further added, “The first step in creating reproductive cells from adult tissues of an endangered animal has been accomplished by generating these stem cells. Next, we aim to harness the potential of iPS cells and create offspring. This will help to save species from extinction.”

WWF-Pak, IMC hold travelling nature carnival\01\23\story_23-1-2012_pg7_10

KARACHI: As many as 2,500 people from various spheres of life, including schools, colleges and universities students, participated in annual Travelling Nature Carnival held here at PAF Museum Sunday, organised by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Pakistan in collaboration with Indus Motor Company (IMC).

The carnival was aimed at motivating and involving youth and general public in valuing the rich natural heritage of Pakistan, and supporting conservation initiatives.

Among its several engaging activities, the most innovative was the 3D display model competition. Hundreds of students participated in live presentations to the judges and guests, featuring themes such as habitat conservation of endangered species (snow leopard, green turtle, Indus dolphin), water conservation, a green idea, solid waste management (recycle, reuse, reduce), global warming and climate change, ecotourism, energy conservation, and green architecture.

The winning institutes were bestowed with shields and certificates. There were 150 stalls set up by schools, universities and commercial entities.

The carnival also arranged environment puppet show, live musical performance, magic show, environment games and quizzes, nature art exhibition, theatre, and environment debate competition.

Speaking on the occasion, WWF-Pakistan’s Regional Director Rab Nawaz pointed out that through the carnival environmental messages could be conveyed to the large number of audience. He further said that children are the stewards for change; they should be equipped with conservation practices, he urged.

Senior Manager Corporate Relation, WWF Pakistan Marriyum Aurangzeb said that for past 10 years, WWF Pakistan’s nature carnival had been playing its role as a unique endeavour that brought together thousands of visitors, such as students, families, corporate sector, media, government organisations, conservation organisations and general public. It provides a collective platform for building knowledge and interest in responsible action, ecologically conscious development and sustainable living.

MD IMC Pervaiz Ghias was the guest of honour at the carnival. While speaking to the participants, he said that the Toyota environmental programme launched in 2011, in partnership with WWF-Pakistan, being implemented in 100 schools, 15 colleges and 10 universities, was a great success.

IMC is proud to be a part of the carnival and hopes to make the young generation of Pakistan an environmentally sensitive generation and a guardian of our natural resources.

Programme Coordinator Indus for All Programme Nasir Ali Panhwar stressed on the unique nature of carnival in terms of establishing diverse level of participation and an integrated approach towards nature conservation. He highlighted need of creating awareness about environmental issues with support of media.

Dutch Father & Son Caught with Snow Leopard Bones

Dutch police find 40 boxes of rare animal bones

Two Dutch men were arrested after police discovered 40 boxes filled with animal bones, including those of a rare snow leopard, in the northeastern city of Emmen, a police spokesman said Friday.

“Police received a tip-off about the men and when they searched two homes on Thursday, they found chimpanzee, crocodile and hippopotamus skeletons and even the skull of rare snow leopard, as well as ivory,” Ron Reinds told AFP.

The father and son, aged 54 and 31, could not explain why the skeletons were in their possession and they were arrested, said Reinds, adding the men are being investigated under Dutch fauna and flora legislation.

Described by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as endangered, the snow leopard is found in the high mountains of central Asia.

There are an estimated 4,000 to 6,500 of the animals left, according to the IUCN.

© 2011 AFP

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 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

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A video about Snow Leopard Enterprises made for the World Challenge can be found

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Makenna O’Meara

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