Nepal Safeguards Four Sacred Himalayan Lakes, some in snow leopard range area

Source: Environmental News Service

KATHMANDU, Nepal, December 24, 2007 (ENS) – To commemorate the Ghunsa tragedy, in which the lives of 24 conservationists from the Nepalese government and WWF were lost in a helicopter crash, the government of Nepal has announced the designation of four new high altitude Wetlands of International Importance.

The helicopter went down on September 23, 2006 in Ghunsa, Nepal. WWF lost seven colleagues – Chandra Gurung, Mingma Norbu Sherpa, Harka Gurung, Yeshi Lama, Jill Bowling Schlaepfer, Jennifer Headley and Matthew Preece – in the crash.

The country lost its minister of state for forests and soil conservation, the secretary of that ministry, the director general of national parks and wildlife conservation, the director general of forests, several of its most distinguished defenders of natural resources and overseas specialists who were champions for conservation in Nepal.

They were returning from a trip to Ghunsa, in the mountains of eastern Nepal where they had participated in a ceremony in which the government of Nepal handed over to local communities responsibility for managing the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, a place known for its beauty, biodiversity and rich cultural heritage.
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SLN Member George Schaller Named Time Magazing “Hero of the Planet”

**NEWS RELEASE** CONTACT: STEPHEN SAUTNER: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org) JOHN DELANEY: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)

Wildlife Conservation Society’s George Schaller Named “Hero of the Planet” by Time Magazine

NOVEMBER 13, 2007 – Renowned conservationist Dr. George Schaller of the Wildlife Conservation Society was recently named by Time Magazine as one of 60 “Heroes of the Planet.”  He joins an elite group of environmental champions, including former Vice President Al Gore and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Time’s editor’s honored Dr. Schaller for his five-plus decades of work to protect some of the world’s most beloved wildlife, including pandas, tigers, gorillas, lions and many other species.  He is the Vice President of Science and Exploration for the Wildlife Conservation Society, the parent organization of the Bronx Zoo.

Dr. Schaller began his career in conservation in the mid 1950s in Alaska, culminating in wildlife surveys that led to the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  From there, he initiated the first-ever biological studies of mountain gorillas, paving the way for Dian Fossey’s crusade to protect these gentle giants.  Then Dr. Schaller went onto to conduct seminal wildlife studies of tigers in India, lions in the Serengeti, pandas in China, and snow leopards in Tibet.  He helped establish one of the world’s largest protected areas – the 115,000 square-mile Chang Tang Reserve in Tibet, created in 1993.

In recent years, Dr. Schaller has worked in the rugged trans-boundary region shared by Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and China.  There, he hopes to establish a new protected area to safeguard the spectacular and highly endangered Marco Polo sheep.

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The Wildlife Conservation Society – Since 1895, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has worked to save wildlife and wild lands around the globe. Today WCS has field staff at work in over 60 nations, protecting many of the last wild places left on our planet. To bring the mission home, the Bronx Zoo based WCS is distinguished as the only global conservation organization that also operates the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, educating more than 4 million zoo and aquarium visitors each year about the importance of wildlife conservation.

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Kim Murray Berger, Ph.D.
Wildlife Ecologist
Northern Rockies Field Office
Wildlife Conservation Society
205 Natural Sciences Bldg.
University of Montana
Missoula, MT  59812

tel: 406-549-8866
mobile: 208-351-2431
email: kberger@wcs.org

Helen Freeman, Snow Leopard Conservation Pioneer, Fondly Remembered

Source: ISLT Website

Honoring a Conservation Hero

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Helen Freeman on September 20th after a long, courageous battle with lung disease. Helen was a remarkable woman, mother, wife, and friend. She was loved dearly and returned that love with all her heart. During her seventy five years she accomplished many things that have made the world a better place.

Born Helen Elaine Maniotas, daughter of Harry and Goldie Maniotas, on March 10, 1932, she grew up as the only child of Greek immigrants in Everett, Washington. Her parents owned and operated the London Café in Everett for over forty years and made her college education a priority. After graduating from Washington State University in 1954, she began dating Stanley Freeman. It was the simple boating trip turned shipwrecked adventure which convinced her to marry this future safety engineer. Thus began a 49 year marriage of enduring love and an endless series of safety debacles. Helen’s life of adventure would take her halfway around the world where she consorted with Maharajas in India, trekked the Himalayas in Nepal, sailed the Yangtze River to Chungking in China, and organized and participated in Snow Leopard Symposia in the Soviet Union, China and India.

Helen and Stan have two sons, Doug and Harry, who carry with them their mom’s love of animals (Doug is a veterinarian) and love of people (Harry is a developmental psychologist). Once Doug and Harry were old enough to go to school she began her career at the Woodland Park Zoo as a volunteer docent and returned to school at the University of Washington to complete a second degree in animal behavior. It was at this time she found the second love of her life, the snow leopard. She spent countless hours studying this elusive cat and ultimately became one of the world’s foremost experts on the behavior of the captive snow leopard. Meanwhile she took a job at the zoo and worked her way up to Curator of Education in the early 1980s. In 1981 she founded the International Snow Leopard Trust. Under her guidance the ISLT pioneered new approaches to snow leopard conservation and its habitat in Asia. Traveling and working in Asia, many times as a lone woman, she earned the respect of local government officials and conservationists across Asia, Europe and the United States. She pioneered innovative conservation practices that placed local peoples at the center of the movement. Helen inspired so many people to help her cause that the Snow Leopard Trust continues to grow stronger and accomplish goals Helen envisioned almost thirty years ago.

During her illustrious career she received many awards and acknowledgments of her achievements. These include the Alumni Achievement Award from Washington State University in 1990, Acknowledgment of Appreciation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1997, the prestigious Evergreen Award in 1998 “In Recognition of Worldwide Partnerships in Wildlife Conservation and Understanding”, and also a medal of honor from the Woodland Park Zoological Society for conservation and education.

Helen was a force of love and indefatigable determination. She lived with a chronic and degenerative lung condition for thirty years. During this time she founded an international conservation movement, published a collection of memoirs, read veraciously and always, till her last breath, challenged us to be true to ourselves. All this and she knew how to laugh at life and find the absurd in her daily struggles. For instance, she might reply, after briefly recovering from a particularly lengthy bought of coughing, “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play.” She thrived on discussion and would probe, question, and challenge us to look deeper into what is essential and meaningful in our lives and follow our hearts. Some might say that in the end she lost her battle with her illness, but they would be mistaken. She managed her disease, not the other way around. It did not diminish her but strengthened her resolve and, as with business and family, she negotiated and compromised, but in the end, it was her call.

Helen is survived by her husband Stanley, their son Doug and his wife Julie, and their children Madison and Mallory; their son Harry and his wife Grace, and their three children, Elena, Harrison, and Willa. Although her lung condition did not slow her enthusiasm and involvement in her grandchildren’s lives, they did slow her scooter with various grandkids hanging off the handlebars as she motored along forest trails. Now we will carry Helen with us along our own trails and look to her for guidance along the way.

Saving a Cat with a Precious Pelt

The Seattle Times examines the illegal (yet still widely accepted) selling of snow leopard skins in the markets of Kabul, Afghanistan. Although the practice is on the decline, Western aid workers and military personnel remain the primary consumers of these immoral and illegal products. SLN member Ghulam Malikyar of Save the Environment Afghanistan is especially applauded for his conservation efforts. The International Snow Leopard Trust’s Brad Rutherford (also an SLN member) brings attention to the plight of local people and their lack of livelihood options, reminding readers that efforts from ISLT and similar organizations are essential in preventing local people from poaching snow leopards, either to protect their flocks or to make money on the black market.

For the full story, see http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003530006_snowleopards18m0.html