Ismail Shariff – My Obsession with Snow Leopards

Snow Leopard, Shann, Shen, Irbis,… Whatever you may want to call them, as soon as I hear the name, the first thing that comes to mind is that long fluffy tail. It was the first time I ever saw a ghost, the ghost of the mountains, and I fell in love with it; that splendid tail, blue eyes, thick fur and a true blue cat attitude.

The fact that it is very difficult to photograph, was not the only thing to have drawn me towards the Snow Leopards. It was while researching about them, after seeing a picture by Dhritiman Mukherjee in July 2012, that I found it had this aura of mysticism and secrecy around it. Snow Leopard was a being of legendary stories and sightings; to be blessed by God to be able to see it in a speck, leave alone photograph it. It had this magic around it about how it disappears from right in front of you, perhaps never to be found again. The saintly strength with which it can glide over the snow and climb mountains in a jiffy; and also the fact that not much was known and/or documented about it.


All of the above piqued my interest and the mountaineer, photographer and swashbuckler in me gave in to test not just my luck, but both my mental and physical limits as well.

For those of you who don’t know me yet, I am Ismail Shariff, a Computer Science engineer with a Master’s in IT Project Management and Entrepreneurship from Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. After pursuing my studies in Budapest, I moved to Paris to work there for 2.5 years before wildlife photography took over me and I am currently;

    • An internationally published and exhibited Wildlife and Nature Photographer
    • Featured photographer on the Snow Leopard Network’s website
    • Being a conservation photographer, I partnered with the Snow Leopard Trust on a number of projects including SLT’s annual Snow Leopard calendar
    • A certified Fine Art Printmaker
    • And a bespoke photography expedition leader, concentrating mainly on Snow Leopards and other wild cats of the world.

And what I intend to achieve with all of this, is to show the world the amazing nature and its beings created by God, and to help in the conservation of the habitats of threatened species. Coming back to my obsession for Snow Leopards, my first and still the most memorable and favourite sighting, was in Hemis National Park, Ladakh, India. It was a male walking on the top edge of the mountain opposite to ours. It was so far that even after zooming in 100%, it was still a speck in my picture.

In hindsight, I feel all our experiences in life are but lessons, preparing us for what is to come. And on this first expedition I learnt about determination and never giving up, however tough it might be. I met a British gentleman of 84 years, who taught me this by example. He was supposedly coming to see the Snow Leopard for over a decade and this was his maiden sighting along with mine. And believe you me, he just looked into the spotting scope for a whole minute, moved back and said “Now I can stop coming”. That just blew my mind and for reasons still unexplainable, after that day it kind of became my goal to know more about it; for I saw the power it holds to make people dedicate over a decade only to have a glimpse of them. I had been photographing the big cats of India for over 5 years then, but felt, this trekking in the snowy mountains, in freezing temperatures, sleeping under the stars in a tent with just a hot water bottle for warmth; somehow gave me more satisfaction.

Since then, I have been obsessed with Snow Leopards and have seen, photographed, filmed and lead photography expeditions for Indian and European companies in Hemis National Park in Ladakh, Ulley in Ladakh, Kibber in Himachal Pradesh, and Altai Mountains in Mongo- lia. The more I see them, that much more I want to see them, and that much more I fall in love with them, and hence, that much more I want to help in protecting and conserving their habitat and prey-base for their survival.

Photography and Tourism ethics:

As a dear friend of mine put it – “Ethics means moral principles, or moral code or behaviour. Especially when it comes to wildlife, shouldn’t that be common sense – “to keep distance, to not instigate, to not be in private space of any animal or bird, to keep calm and not make noise, so as to not to disturb them”

I couldn’t agree more, but alas, so is not the case with quite some wildlife photographers. And it’s not the case of country, but I have seen it in India, Malaysia, USA, Mongolia and Europe. Let me also come clean here and be upfront on this, for when I started photographing wildlife in 2007, even I went on elephant safaris and paid a little extra to mahouts to get a closer picture of a Tiger in Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh, but thankfully and gratefully, its just been about that much, since, and the credit for that goes to my friends whom I would accompany for these wildlife safaris, for they never encouraged any such behaviour.

But what you see increasingly within snow leopard habitats is bewildering.

If we want to summarise the do’s and dont’s, then this is what I feel could make a good difference. It would be great to hear from others on anything more/else that we can do to make a difference for both photographers/tourists and the locals.

Maintain distance! Always!

Every being, including us, has our own personal space, intruding upon which, gets us agitated and even angry, and we all have dif- ferent ways of handling it. For most animals, the typical response if you get too close, is to either run away or literally ‘take matters in their hands (or claws and teeth)’. And what’s the fun in disturbing them so that they run away.

If you maintain the distance, not only will they hang around for a bit longer, giving you the opportunity to observe them and their behaviour, but if they get comfortable with your presence, they might just go about doing their usual thing, which gives you more to learn about them from.

Do not disturb the animals or birds!

Be it talking loudly, or trying to get attention of the being by mocking sounds and/or throwing things at them; its a strict NO! Be patient and wait, and you might get a much better moment than you have anticipated.

Try to stay away from baiting.

I do understand that some uber rare species like the Siberian Tiger or Amur Leopard cannot be observed/photographed without it, but baiting makes the mammals get used to it if done frequently, which alters their natural behaviour of predation. Failing to find these baits at a later point in time might even provoke them to attack the cattle, and in cases of big cats, like the Tigers and Leopards, they might even attack humans in desperation.

Also, when you book your expeditions or tour, do inquire about the credibility of the home stay owner, your tour leader, and the lo- cal support there. Just because they have been going there or leading expeditions or have a home stay there for a long time, doesn’t mean that all their practices are ethical. If you know people who have gone with them, talk to them and ask more details.

No drones in national parks!

Its strictly not allowed by the forest department in just about all the national parks and wildlife regions/reserves in India. If you DO want to fly them, make sure you have written permissions and approvals from the relevant forest offices.

Considering that most of us travel far and wide to reach such beautiful places, why make it a hassle and waste precious time in dealing with why, where, how and landing up in the station for a few hours; and also paying hefty fines and getting the drones con- fiscated.

No Camera traps!

No rocket science here too. No camera traps without prior written permission from the relevant forest offices.

When the animal/bird comes close.

There have been many instances where the animal or bird you are observing/photographing gets interested in you and comes closer to take a look-see. When that happens, please stay calm and restrict your movements to bare minimum and as gentle as you can. Getting excited to see them come close to you, might just startle them, and they might end up running/flying away or take you as a threat and attack you in defence.

Lastly, speak up!

Speak up wherever you see something wrong or not-right happening. Oppose it at the least, even if you have to submit and succumb to it. If we don’t stand up for what is right even vocally, then it becomes a norm, and at times even the guides and naturalists think it to be THE way of going about it.

Hopefully this forced reset that we are in, gives us all a positive perspective on how to take on life henceforth, and bring most positivity on field and conservation results. With all the new ‘necessary developments’ for which we are stripping out our natural resources, its still just a positive dream!

Ismail Shariff


Viral infection hits Himalayan blue sheep in wild

Shimla, Sep 20 (IANS) – The Himalayan blue sheep or bharal, an important prey of the endangered snow leopard, is under threat in the wild from a highly contagious viral infection in the Spiti Valley, the state’s northernmost part that runs parallel to the Tibetan border.

Wildlife officials say a large number of blue sheep have been reported to be suffering from foot-and-mouth disease.

“A large number of blue sheep suffering from the disease were spotted in the Demul (village) area,” Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) Rajeev Kumar said.

Kumar told IANS on the telephone from Kaza town that local sheep and goat breeders have reported the spread of the disease to the wildlife wing.

Foot-and-mouth is an acute contagious disease of cloven-footed animals marked by ulcers in the mouth and around the hoofs.

Kumar said even camera traps (automatic cameras) laid by the wildlife department in coordination with Mysore-based NGO Nature Conservation Foundation in the Spiti Valley to study the habitat of snow leopard have recorded the infected animals.

“Since the domesticated goats and sheep share the grazing grounds with wild animals, there are chances that the blue sheep acquired the disease from the domesticated ones,” he said.

A wildlife team has been despatched to gauge the extent of the disease. The local animal husbandry authorities have been told to treat the domesticated animals in case the infection spreads, the wildlife official added.

Migratory shepherds, who are returning to the lower pasture lands owing to the onset of winter, have also spotted carcasses of the blue sheep, the species listed as least concern by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), another official said.

The blue sheep, which inhabit open grassy slopes in high mountains from 2,500 to 5,500 metres, often migrate between India and China’s Tibetan plateau.

According to wildlife experts, the rise in the population of domesticated animals in the remote, inaccessible mountains can pose a threat to the wild animals.

“This might even threaten the Asiatic ibex – a wild goat species – another prey of the snow leopard prominently found in Spiti,” an expert said.

Sandeep Rattan, a veterinary surgeon with the wildlife wing, said intermingling of domesticated and wild animals and fomites are mainly responsible for the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease. Its agent may also be carried by the wind from an infected farm.

“It’s not possible to vaccinate the animals in the wild, especially where their habitat is rocky and cliffy. Recovery in the wild is automatic provided the secondary bacterial infection doesn’t complicate the disease,” he said.

The snow leopard, bharal, ibex, musk deer, mouse hare, long-tailed marmot and wild ass are prominent mammal species found in the alpine and cold desert regions of Spiti.


Elusive snow leopards seen thriving in Bhutan park

(Reuters) – The elusive, endangered snow leopard is apparently thriving in a park in Bhutan, as seen in camera trap images released on Tuesday by the government of Bhutan and World Wildlife Fund.

Over 10,000 pictures of the snow leopards were captured last October and November by four cameras placed in Wangchuck Centennial Park as part of a survey conducted by Bhutan and WWF.

Unaware of the camera, one animal walks up to the lens, while an adult female and a young snow leopard pace a few steps away. Another image shows an adult feline nearly invisible against a stony Himalayan background.

Most significantly, a video clip shows one adult leopard scent-marking its territory, a way to communicate with other snow leopards about gender and breeding status. It also can show there is a resident animal, not one that is just passing through.

That is important, because the snow leopard is threatened by retaliatory killings by herders, habitat lost to farmers and poaching for their spotted pelts. There are an estimated 4,500 to 7,500 in the wild.

The camera trap evidence shows core snow leopard habitat in Wangchuck Centennial Park, which functions as a corridor between Jigme Dorji National Park to the west and Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in the east. The survey is meant to figure out how many snow leopards are in Wangchuck park and where they are, in order to target the best places for conservation.

Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, snow leopard populations are suspected to have declined by at least 20 percent in the last 16 years due to habitat loss and the loss of prey.

Their habitat — above the tree line but below the snow line — is a narrow band that is expected to get narrower due to climate change, survey leader Rinjan Shrestha said in a telephone interview.

As trees are able to grow at higher altitudes, snow leopards may be pushed further uphill, but could be constrained by limited oxygen at high altitude.

Warming at high elevations in the Himalayas is occurring at three times the global average. If climate-warming greenhouse emissions continue at a low level, 10 percent of snow leopard habitat could be lost, WWF said.

Under a high emissions scenario, about 30 percent of habitat could be vulnerable, Shrestha said.

“Its habitat is relatively narrow in Bhutan compared to other parts of its terrain,” Shrestha said from Toronto. “That’s why I was not sure we could see many in Bhutan.”

The cameras also showed a healthy population of blue sheep, the snow leopard’s main prey.

(Reporting By Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Jackson eyed for Indianapolis Prize


Nov 21, 2011 – 06:57 PM

Dr. Rodney Jackson is hoping third time really is the charm after learning he has been again named as a finalist for the prestigious Indianapolis Prize, awarded for efforts in wildlife conservation.

Jackson is the founder of the Boyes Hot Springs-based Snow Leopard Conservancy, which has been working since 1986 to protect the endangered cats in the 12 countries they inhabit. The Indianapolis Prize is a $100,000 grant awarded every other year to a person who has done extraordinary work to save a particular species. Jackson was named as one of 29 finalists picked from across the globe for the 2012 prize, after being named one of the six finalists in both 2008 and 2010.

“It’s an honor to get it the third time,” Jackson said. “It’s encouraging, that’s for sure.”

Jackson is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on snow leopards after intensively studying the cats since 1981. Now, he works to protect the cats by reaching out to the residents of the mountainous communities where the endangered species live.

“Where do you go first? You ask the locals, they know what’s going on,” Jackson said.

Jackson explained that local residents can be a snow leopard’s biggest predator or biggest advocate. Many who live side-by-side with the cats find them to be a pest because snow leopards are known to feed on livestock.

“If your livelihood is based on your livestock, this is a major issue … One of the reasons snow leopards are trapped, poisoned and killed is when they get into those livestock pens,” Jackson explained. “The only way to deal with this is to minimize the loss of livestock or to find a way to make their livelihood off of the snow leopards.”

He said the answer is as simple as putting covers on the livestock pens to keep the cats out. If he wins the Indianapolis Prize, he said at least a portion of the money would be spent on predator proofing livestock pens for native populations.

“It’s very easy to predator proof so the snow leopards can’t get in,” Jackson said.

He also teaches local residents how to make money off their endangered neighbors by leading tourists on treks into the mountains to spot the elusive cats.

One of Jackson’s earliest research efforts involves mapping the range and movement of the cats to better focus his conservation efforts. He uses both radio collars to track the cats over long distances, as well as genetically testing fecal matter to understand which cats are living in the area and how far they travel.

“It helps us predict where the cats might occur,” he said. “It also tells us where the most efficient places to do our conservation would be.”

Right now, he said his efforts are specifically focused on Mongolia. Mineral-rich mines line the mountains, and are being heavily tapped to meet the need for natural resources in China, Jackson said. This has led to more highways and rail lines into the mountains, disrupting the snow leopard’s habitat. Working with conservation groups in the area, Jackson said, “We want to see if we can come up with some plans to offset the impact of those mines.”

The Indianapolis Prize is awarded by the Indianapolis Zoo, but the funding is provided by the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation. A nominating committee that selected the 29 nominees will narrow the list down to six finalists, who will be announced in the spring. Following that, a jury of experts in the field of conservation will select a winner, to be announced Sept. 29, during the Indianapolis Prize Gala.

Until then, Jackson said he’s keeping his focus on snow leopards. “It’s not as much the action of individual people, but the actions of groups of people working together,” he said.

In addition to continuing with their conservation work, Jackson and his partner Darla Hillard are finishing up a new e-book to be released in December. The book, “Vanishing Tracks 2,” follows up on Hillard’s 1989 book, “Vanishing Tracks,” which detailed four years of living on the mountainous cliffs in Western Nepal while conducting the world’s seminal research on snow leopards. The new book catches up with what the conservancy has learned since then, with proceeds from the book benefitting the nonprofit organization.

“We’ll have it in every format – for e-readers, for iPads for your computer,” Hillard said.

To find “Vanishing Tracks 2” or learn more about the Snow Leopard Conservancy, visit

Indian researcher’s work in Australia holds hope for wild cats

Deep Saxena, Hindustan Times
Lucknow, November 10, 2011

First Published: 19:20 IST(10/11/2011)
Last Updated: 19:26 IST(10/11/2011)

Cats may mythically have nine lives, but wild cats — pushed to the brink of extinction — have not been as lucky by any stretch of imagination. Indian PhD student Rajneesh Verma’s work in Australia, however, holds the promise of a fresh lease of life for endangered species, primarily wild cats.

Verma, 32, born and brought up in Lucknow, has created embryonic stem-like (ES-like) cells from a snow leopard’s ear tissue. His ES-like cells have the capability of creating life without extracting fertilised eggs (sperms and egg) from the animal.

Verma believes he can in due course of time create life through IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) because his ES-like cells “have the potential to form any other cell type of the body — egg and sperm”.

He conducted his research at Monash Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, on the snow leopard, Bengal tiger, jaguar and the serval (African wild cat).

The cells created by Rajneesh holds promise for endangered snow leopards.The university has validated his research and a prominent science journal in the US is publishing it later this week. Subsequently, the university will have a global release of the research.

In May, Study Melbourne, the Victoria government’s official website, had noted the progress of Verma’s research under the title ‘Technology adds a tenth life to endangered cats’.

Verma told HT from Australia, “Hailing from India, loving tigers and the cat family comes to me naturally.” His work involves non-invasive technology called Induced Pluripotent Stem cells.

According to Verma, extracting eggs and sperm for cloning is a gruelling process. “Take the case of the tiger. Who will allow experiment with endangered species? Complicated surgeries are needed to get the eggs and sperm for IVF or cloning. Extracting them is a very painful process for the animal.”

PhD student Rajneesh Verma Verma has created cells from snow-leopard ear tissue that can create life without extracting fertilised eggs from the animal.The PhD student who did his schooling from Lucknow’s City Montessori School and Class XII from Colvin Taluqdars’ College wants to bring his work to India. “This project is on wild cats, but since the population of our national animal tiger is depleting fast, I want to come down to open a research centre.”

His elder brother Maneesh Verma, who owns Dreamworld Water Park in Lucknow, said, “He tried to start the project here, but, due to the high cost and infrastructure involved, Australia was a better option.”

Uma Shanker, chief conservator of forests, Jhansi, said, “Rajneesh has briefed me on the outline of the project. Let it be announced internationally. Then we may take it forward as per government protocol.”

A guarded approach by experts is evident amid the excitement surrounding Verma’s work.

Upasna, a researcher from Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling, which pioneers snow leopard breeding in the country, said, “Creating life with embryonic stem cell is possible and can be done with egg and sperm through IVF. Until the research report comes I can’t say anything.”

An email to Monash Institute remained unanswered.

Snow leopard, ghost of the mountains, is disappearing fast (photography tourism)

By Dharmendra Khandal Nov 02 2011

Snow leopard is the most mysterious of all big cats. This cat is found in the mountain ranges of south Asia and central Asia, mostly in the hill ranges of 3,000-5,500 metres high. It is said in India, the habitat of snow leopards is about 1,80,000 sq km; in comparison tiger is found in less than a lakh sq km area. Tiger conservationists often cite the number of rivers that originate in the tiger habitats as one of the reasons for saving tigers. But if seen volume-wise, the rivers starting from Himalayan region of our country , where the snow leopards live , have more water flowing.

In India, the snow leopard is found in five places: Jammu Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh. India’s most talented and famed wildlife photographer, Dhritiman Mukherjee, has captured the most spectacular images of this extremely elusive animal when some local informed him that the animal had killed a yak. Before this, most of the images from India were of captive animals or animals captured in camera trap. India’s scientists have studied this animal but most of the work has been restricted to academic level contribution. Seeing this kind of animal may be a dream for most wildlife enthusiasts. But this experience is not like visiting the regular tiger parks, where one enjoys hot meals and clean rooms. To see a snow leopard, one has to endure a freezing cold environment with very little basic amenities at disposal. And it is not guaranteed that you get to see a snow leopard.

Ranthambhore based wildlife photographer Aditya Singh says that it may be tough to spot snow leopards but if efforts are made, we can increase the sighting chances. The cat regularly preys on the livestock of the residents living in its territory. If these people are contacted they can inform one about its presence. But one has to rush before the cat could get away with its prey. In return, the visitor needs to pay the local for yak that the animal had hunted.

Conservationists who don’t take to tourism and photography may dislike this method but for now, this is the key to conservation: The local who lost his livestock will now call a photographer, who compensates the loss — instead of a hunter to shoot the animal. The biggest snow leopard area is in Tibet, with about 70 per cent habitat. Sadly, Tibet is the biggest hub of illegal fur trade, which is the biggest threat to the cat. Not enough animals to prey on due to seasonal migration makes the snow leopard kill people’s livestock, leaving behind a clue of its presence and subsequent poaching. The IUCN in its red data book has listed the snow leopard as endangered.

It is important to increase the community’s involvement in its conservation. Efforts have to be multi channelled. For both Dhritiman and Aditya Singh, it was possible to take the magnificent images of the animals only with the help of the local communities, proving that the right approach with the local communities could lead to efficient solution to snow leopard poaching.

Nepal’s snow leopards to be counted

November 3 2011 at 06:00pm


Kathmandu – Nepal has launched the first census of its snow leopards, local media reported, in a bid to raise awareness of the endangered species.

Closed circuit television cameras have been installed around the northern district of Mustang, at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 metres, and are planned to count the district’s leopards within two months.

“The census aims to find the exact population of snow leopards and conserve them,” Som Ale, one of the conservationists involved in the project, was quoted as saying by the Kathmandu Post.

“We believe it will help bring awareness about conservation of leopards among people.”

The project is being carried out jointly by the National Trust for Nature Conservation, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project and other partners.

Nepal’s snow leopards live in the Mugu, Mustang, Dolpa and Humla districts in the northern belt, at an altitude of around 5,000 metres.

Conservationists say their number is rapidly declining and put the current figure at 300 to 500.

“Major threats for snow leopards come from the human and wildlife conflict,” World Wide Fund for Nature official Kamal Thapa told dpa.

“Villagers kill the animals for attacking their livestock.”

The conservationist group is running insurance programmes to discourage people from attacking the endangered species to defend their cattle. – Sapa-dpa

Nepal children to track snow leopard

(AFP) – 1 day ago (8Nov11)

KATHMANDU — Conservationists in Nepal have enlisted an army of school children to record the movements of the mysterious snow leopard, one of the most elusive predators in the world, a scientist said Tuesday.

Experts believe just 500 adults survive in the Himalayan nation, and few can claim ever to have seen the secretive, solitary “mountain ghost”, which lives 5,000 to 6,000 metres (16,500 to 20,000 ft) above sea level.

“Snow leopards are inherently rare, and also elusive in the sense that they are active during dusk and dawn, so few people, including biologists, have seen a snow leopard to date,” said Som Ale of the US-based Snow Leopard Conservancy.

The group has enlisted children from schools in the leopard’s habitat in Mustang, in Nepal’s mountainous northern frontier, who will work in pairs to instal and monitor digital cameras to count the endangered species.

The census, due to be carried out over two months in winter, will give scientists a more accurate idea of numbers in Nepal than more primitive techniques, including recording tracks and collecting droppings.

Although the Snow Leopard Conservancy used camera traps on a study in India six years ago, the group says this is the first survey of a large predator anywhere in the world by local communities who are not paid conservation experts.

“In parts of Africa, lions may be monitored by local people but they are well paid professional guides,” Ale told AFP.

The pupils will be trained to set up digital cameras that take infra-red images and operate in sub-zero temperatures to areas where snow leopards would be expected to visit.

Computer programmers will then use each animal’s unique pelt to create to estimate the number of snow leopards.

The snow leopard is protected in Nepal by an act of parliament dating back to the 1970s which provides for penalties of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,300) and up to 15 years in jail for poachers.

Nepal children enlisted to track elusive snow leopard

Published on Nov 9, 2011

Conservationists in Nepal have enlisted an army of school children to record the movements of the mysterious snow leopard, one of the most elusive predators in the world, a scientist said Nov 8, 2011. — PHOTO: AFPKATHMANDU (AFP) – Conservationists in Nepal have enlisted an army of school children to record the movements of the mysterious snow leopard, one of the most elusive predators in the world, a scientist said on Tuesday.

Experts believe just 500 adults survive in the Himalayan nation, and few can claim ever to have seen the secretive, solitary ‘mountain ghost’, which lives 5,000 to 6,000 metres above sea level.

‘Snow leopards are inherently rare, and also elusive in the sense that they are active during dusk and dawn, so few people, including biologists, have seen a snow leopard to date,’ said Dr Som Ale of the United States-based Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC).

The group has enlisted children from schools in the leopard’s habitat in Mustang, in Nepal’s mountainous northern frontier, who will work in pairs to install and monitor digital cameras to count the endangered species.

Untimely loss of Dr. Pralad Yonzon, the founder of Resources Himalaya Foundation, and the team leader of Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH)

2 November 2011

Dear Readers,

The untimely demise of Dr. Pralad Yonzon, the founder of Resources Himalaya Foundation, and the team leader of Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH), has deeply shocked and shattered us.

A Fulbright scholar and the recipient of the Order of the Golden Ark, Dr. Yonzon specialized in wildlife biology. He has been recognized for his work on conservation in Nepal, Bhutan, India and Vietnam, in particular for influencing environmentally sound government policies on nature conservation; for his groundbreaking discovery in Bhutan and comprehensive scientific studies of rhinos, snow leopard, tiger and elephants in Nepal; contribution to the biodiversity visioning process for the eastern Himalaya; for his work on evaluation and monitoring, and human resource development in the field of conservation. He was without doubt the finest conservation biologist in this part of the world.

Dr. Yonzon always believed youths as the future leaders of conservation in the Himalaya. He provided the platform, research skills, and contemporary knowledge through the mentoring program of Resources Himalaya for which all he demanded was the enthusiasm of the students. Although he is no more with us to provide more knowledge, he will always live in our hearts for the generosity with which he shared his vast wealth of knowledge and for his selfless devotion to the cause of conservation. He will always remain as a guiding light in all our endeavors. We dedicate this issue of Headlines Himalaya to Dr. Pralad Yonzon, and commit to bring the upcoming issues regularly and maintain the quality he always expected of us. Thank you for your support in the difficult time.

From Resources Himalaya

Dear Friends:

We recently learned of the untimely death of Dr. Pralad Yonzon of Nepal, the founder of Resources Himalaya Foundation, and the team leader of Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH).

Besides his many activities and valuable research on wildlife in the Himalayan region, Dr. Pralad Yonzon was also the first president of the Society for Conservation Biology – Asia Section and was very active in organizing the first Asia section regional meeting that took place in Kathmandu in 2005; see: . He was also the primary author of Nepal’s first Snow Leopard Action Plan, which he drafted in 2003. He remained a champion for snow leopard conservation throughout the region until his death.

More details of his life’s work are available from the Resources Himalaya Foundation

He will be sorely missed by his many colleagues and friends.


Tom McCarthy


Tom McCarthy, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Snow Leopard Program


On 31 October 2011, Dr. Prahlad Yonzon died in an accident in Kalanki, Kathmandu at about 4.00 PM. He was crashed by a truck while cycling back to his house. He was 60 years old and left his wife, a son and a daughter.

Yonzon did his PhD research in Langtang area on the topic” Ecology and conservation of the Red Panda in the Nepal-Himalaya”, from University of Maine, USA around 1989. Dr. Yonzon was President of Nepal Zoological Society during 1990-92 and Lecturer of Zoology in Natural History Museum, TU, Nepal. During that time Nepal Zoological Society published Directory of Zoologists of Nepal, and a regular news bulletin – Habitat Himalaya.

During late 30s he was teaching in TC campus also. After a long activities outside the university, he was mentoring the students of Environment Science in Tribhuvan University few years before and produced thesis for dozens of young graduates.

Besides his many activities and valuable research on wildlife in the Nepal Himalayan region including Bhutan and Vietnam, Dr. Prahlad Yonzon was also the first President of the Society for Conservation Biology – Asia Section and was very active in organizing the first Asia section regional meeting that took place in Kathmandu in 2005. He was Trustees of NTNC and wildlife consultant of UNDP.

He was one of the author of Nepal’s Snow Leopard Action Plan drafted in 2003 some other documents in mega herbivores. Dr. Prahlad Yonzon was the founder of Resources Himalaya Foundation, and the team leader of Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH).

Nepal lost a prominent wildlife Biologist.

Mukesh K. Chalise, PhD
Associate Professor
Central Department of Zoology
Tribhuvan University, Nepal