Slideshow: Tibet’s snow leopards, by SLN Member J Marc Foggin

November 08, 2011

Local herders are central to protecting the snow leopard in the source area of the Yangtze River. J Marc Foggin introduces a series of photos documenting the community conservation project.

The first joint planning meeting with nature reserve staff and local herders occurred in Suojia in 2007, inaugurating a new collaboration based on the key principles of “community co-management”. In a remote area of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in China’s western Qinghai province, local Tibetan herders have been actively protecting the snow leopard and other endangered wildlife in the high grasslands and mountains for more than a decade. Now, with help from non-profit organisation, Plateau Perspectives, and the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve, they are also using “camera traps” to photograph the animals and better document their distribution, range and behaviour. The images presented here include some of the first photographs taken.

There are fewer than 7,500 snow leopards worldwide, according to the latest estimates from a dozen countries. Around 60% of this elusive species’ potential habitat is in China, most of it on the Tibetan Plateau. Conservation efforts are crucial and the people of Muqu village are supporting them in several ways, serving as park wardens, environmental advocates and as partners in applied wildlife research.

Such commitment to environmental protection is rooted in the community’s involvement in a more people-centred approach to environmental management, known as “community co-management”. When locals are treated as genuine partners and allowed to voice their concerns as well as sharing their knowledge, there is a real opportunity to find better models for a sustainable future.

In remote mountain areas of the world, if we are to succeed in protecting the snow leopard, for example, we must equally protect its fragile habitat. To protect the snow leopard is to protect the entire landscape and many other species and habitats will in this way be preserved as well.

For over a decade, around a dozen members of Muqu village have served as wildlife monitors and searched for snow leopards in their rugged mountain terrain. Many different signs can be seen – prints, scrapes, scat and kills – and several times a year, these herders report all their sightings as well as any instance of livestock predation or poaching. Now, with the advent of technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS) and digital cameras activated by motion sensors, an increasingly clear picture of the conservation situation is emerging.

Since 2009, over a dozen camera traps have been set in the mountains of western Yushu, located according to the extensive knowledge of local herders. Nine individual snow leopards have already been captured on film, within an area of about 150-square kilometres. Clearly this geographic area has one of the highest densities of snow leopard in the world. Many other species also live here, including blue sheep, Tibetan antelope, wild ass, wild yak, black-necked crane and saker falcon.

But when snow leopards and wolves flourish, the number of livestock killed by these predators rises – and herders are starting to ask about financial compensation. On the one hand, people want to protect the land and wildlife, but on the other hand, the cost is sometimes deemed too high. Developing alternate sources of income for local herders is crucial, and the solution currently being explored is ecotourism.

While there are many challenges to developing an economically viable and equitable ecotourism project, the potential benefits have swayed many people in the area to give it their best effort, including tourism bureaus and several responsible business partners, community representatives and non-profit organisations. If projects in the Yushu area are well designed from an early stage, then community-based tourism could flourish, bringing benefits to local people. The environment could also be better preserved and more easily appreciated by the nation as a whole.

The benefits of working in genuine partnerships with local communities in the source area of the Yangtze River are already clear. Together we can find viable solutions to protect the high mountains, the grasslands and the wildlife of the Tibetan Plateau. And both the elusive snow leopard and local herders will enjoy the results.

J Marc Foggin has worked in China for around 15 years, focusing his attention on conservation and community development on the Tibetan plateau. He is founding director of international NGO Plateau Perspectives and associate professor in the School of Geography and Life Sciences at Qinghai Normal University. He lives in Qinghai.

China arrests two Mongolians for smuggling snow leopard skins

Beijing 27 April 2010 – Chinese police arrested two Mongolian citizens after finding two snow leopard skins and a snow leopard skull hidden inside their jeep at a border checkpoint, state media said Tuesday.

Police in the remote Alxa League of north China’s Inner Mongolia region spent 10 hours searching the vehicle that had more than 40 hidden compartments, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The smuggled skins and skull had an estimated value of more than 200,000 yuan (29,000 dollars) on the black market, the agency quoted Zhao Jun, an anti-smuggling officer from the regional capital, as saying.

Experts say snow leopard skins from Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan are often smuggled across the borders to be sold in China or abroad.

Only about 6,000 snow leopards are believed to remain in the wild in 12 central and southern Asian nations, according to international wildlife protection groups.

Last month, a court in China’s far western region of Xinjiang – which borders Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan – sentenced two herdsmen to long prison terms after they were convicted of trapping and killing a snow leopard.

In a major case in 2007 in Gansu province, between Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, police seized a record 27 snow leopard skins when they investigated a report of illegal trading in endangered animal parts.,china-arrests-two-mongoli

Illegal Wildlife Trade Flowing Through Porous China-Myanmar Border

World Sentinel: Newswire Services
March 21, 2010

Washington, DC — Porous borders are allowing vendors in Myanmar to offer a door-to-door delivery service for illegal wildlife products such as tiger bone wine to buyers in China, according to a new report from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

The State of Wildlife Trade in China 2008 is the third in an annual series on emerging trends in China´s wildlife trade.

The report found that over-exploitation of wildlife for trade has affected many species and is stimulating illegal trade across China´s borders.

“China´s remote border areas have long been considered a hotbed for illegal wildlife trafficking and surveillance is difficult in these sparsely populated areas,” said Professor Xu Hongfa, Director of TRAFFIC – China

The illegal trade in Asian big cat products is a key issue at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting.

The meeting is taking place in Doha, Qatar, where 175 countries will vote on measures that, if properly enforced, can end illegal tiger trade for good. Tigers are especially in the spotlight during this Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar.

“TRAFFIC and WWF are encouraging CITES Parties to enforce the law effectively in their own countries in order to end all illegal trade,” said Colman O´Criodain, Wildlife Trade Analyst at WWF International.

Tiger and leopard parts were also found openly for sale in western China, although market surveys in 18 cities found just two places where such items were encountered. One of them—Bei Da Jie Market in Linxia city—has a history of trading in tiger products. Five surveys between late 2007 and 2008 found one tiger, 15 leopard skins and seven snow leopard skins for sale in this market.

“There is clearly ongoing demand for leopard and tiger products, but the trade appears to be becoming less visible year-on-year,” said Professor Xu, adding that it is unclear if it is because there is less trade in such products or it has become more covert and organized.

The report also examines the trade of other wildlife species in China. In southern China, TRAFFIC identified 26 species of freshwater turtles for sale. The majority of animals were claimed by vendors to be supplied from freshwater turtle farms—many of which do not practice closed-cycle captive breeding and therefore rely on wild-sourced breeding stock.

“If no action is taken, sourcing from the wild coupled with increased captive production to meet an expanding market demand will pose a serious threat to wild species through unsustainable harvesting from wild populations in China and beyond,” said Professor Xu.

The report also highlights research into the legality of timber imported into China from source countries in Africa and South-East Asia, noting up to 30% discrepancies between reported import and export timber volumes.

Other topics covered include sustainable utilization of traditional medicinal plants, analysis of wildlife trade information, the Corallium trade in East Asia, tackling cross-border illegal wildlife trade on the China-Nepal border, and stopping illegal wildlife trade online.
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China and India called on by scientists to collaborate on conservation

Biodiversity knows no ‘national boundaries’ and nations must protect species from rising consumption, dams and industry

Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent (, Thursday 18 March 2010 18.00 GMT

Mount Kanchenjunga in the Darjeeling mountains in the Himalayas, a particularly environmentally sensitive area. Photograph: Frederic Soltan/© Frederic Soltan/Corbis

China and India could together decide the future of the global environment, a team of senior scientists warn today in a call for closer collaboration on conservation by the world’s two most populous nations.

Writing in the journal Science, the eight coauthors — including zoologists from both nations — warn of the security and biodiversity threat posed by rising consumption, dam construction and industrial emissions.

The ecological footprint of the two fast-emerging Asian economies has already spread beyond their borders and with future economic growth rates likely to continue at 8% for several years, the experts say the pressure on borders, resources and biodiversity could reach dangerous levels.

“The degree to which China and India consume natural resources within their boundaries and beyond will largely determine future environmental, social and economic outcomes,” say the co-authors headed by Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The report notes that the two countries import 9m of crude oil a year and 64% of all the roundwood pine produced in Asia, adding to the problems of global deforestation and warming.

The impacts are becoming more obvious in the strategically sensitive Himalayan border area, where the authors say large numbers of troops are damaging the environment. Resources in the mountain region are so scarce, they note, that soldiers sometimes eat rare plants.

Melting glaciers that supply meltwater for half the world’s population and the constriction of rivers by hundreds of dams are also major problems, they say.

With the demand for energy in both nations growing, they predict a further rise in construction of hydroelectric plants and exploitation of other Himalayan resources, with alarming implications for regional security.

“The synergistic effects of decreasing water resources, loss of biodiversity, increased pollution and climate change may have negative social and economic consequences and, even worse, escalate conflicts within and between the two countries,” they warn.

Despite their growing global importance, China and India have conducted little joint research and engaged in only modest collaboration to mitigate the impact of their rapid development. There have been small signs of progress in recent years, including agreements to jointly monitor glaciers and study the interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean. But the authors say much more collaboration is necessary.

“More earnest cooperation between the world’s two most populous countries will be vital for mitigating biodiversity loss, global warming and deforestation,” the authors say.

They suggest turning disputed territory into trans-boundary protected areas, fostering scientific collaboration, working with the United Nations to manage natural resources and encouraging regional forums, such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), to focus more on the environment.

One of the authors — Zhang Yaping, the president of the Kunming Institute of Zoology — said it was rare for biodversity protection to span the two nations.

“We should certainly strengthen cooperation in this field,” he said. “China and India have done a lot of conservation work inside their own nations. What we need now is a joint effort. There should be no national boundaries in biodiversity protection.”

Myanmar a gateway for wildlife trade to China: report

(AFP) – 11 hours ago
15 March 2010

DOHA — Demand in China is stoking a black market in neighbouring Myanmar in tiger-bone wine, leopard skins, bear bile and other products made from endangered species, a report released on Tuesday said.

“China’s border areas have long been considered a hotbed for illegal trade, with remote locations often making surveillance difficult in sparsely populated areas,” Xu Hongfa, top China investigator for environmental group TRAFFIC, said in the report.

Enforcement efforts within China appear to have curtailed the open sale of many animal parts and products taken from species banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), he said.

Market surveys in 18 Western Chinese cities in 2008 found only two sites where tiger and snow leopard skins were on sale, far less than in previous years, said Xu.

But transactions may have simply moved underground and onto the Internet, and Myanmar has emerged as a fast-growing supply node.

“There is clearly ongoing demand for leopard and tiger products, but the trade appears to be becoming less visible year-on-year,” Xu said.

“The current trade is more covert, organised and insidious, making it harder to detect and crack down on.”

TRAFFIC said that in December 2008, its investigators checked three markets on the Chinese side of the border in Yunnan Province, and one in Mongla, a town in Special Region 4 of Myanmar’s Eastern Shan state.

Markets on the Chinese side were legal, but one and a half kilometres (a mile) across the border they found a grim range of wildlife products sold by Chinese merchants.

These included a clouded leopard skin, pieces of elephant skin, batches of bear bile extracted from live animals, a dead silver pheasant, a monitor lizard and a bear paw, which is considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine.

Nearby, another shop specialised in “tiger-bone wine” costing 88 dollars (64 euros) for a small bottle.

The shop owner said buyers were mostly Chinese tourists, and customers could order the supposedly health-boosting tonic by phone for delivery to Daluo, a river-port town in China.

Like China, Myanmar also had national laws forbidding trade in endangered species.

“But enforcement is non-existent in Special Region 4 as it is an autonomous state… controlled by the National Democratic Alliance Army,” a rebel group, said Xu Ling, the China programme officer for TRAFFIC, who did the survey.

The 175-member CITES, meeting in Qatar’s capital Doha until March 25, will review measures to boost enforcement of wildlife bans already in place, as well as proposals to halt or limit commerce in species not yet covered by the Convention.

Copyright © 2010 AFP.

China herdsmen jailed for killing snow leopard

 China herdsmen jailed for killing snow leopard
  Page last updated at 05:56 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010 
Two herdsmen have been sentenced to eight and 10 years in prison for killing a snow leopard in northwest China’s Xinjiang region.
 China‘s state news agency Xinhua quoted local authorities saying the men had set a trap after wild animals had been preying on their sheep.  When a snow leopard was trapped, they stoned it to death and gave its fur, bones and internal organs to others.  It is estimated that there are just 4,000 snow leopards left in the wild.  The wildlife protection office of Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture confirmed that the animal they killed was a snow leopard, said Yang Jianwei, a publicity official of Manas County Committee of the Communist Party of China, where the men were convicted.  Xinhua reported that five suspects who had allegedly killed two snow leopards were arrested in January this year by the Public Security Bureau of Luntai County, Xinjiang.  Four people were sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing and selling four snow leopards on 19 November 2008.  Snow leopards live between 3,000 and 5,500 metres above sea level in the rocky mountains in central and south Asia
Herdsmen Get Imprisonment for Killing Snow Leopard
Two herdsmen were sentenced to eight and 10 years in prison respectively for killing a snow leopard in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, said local authorities Sunday.
 The two men were convicted of illegally catching and killing rare and endangered wild animals and fined at Manas County People’s Court on Feb. 28, said Yang Jianwei, a publicity official of Manas County Committee of the Communist Party of China.  The two men set an animal trap after their sheep had been preyed on by wild animals. When a snow leopard was caught by the trap, they stoned it to death and gave its fur, bones and internal organs to others.  The wildlife protection office of Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture confirmed that the animal they killed was a snow leopard, Yang said.  In January 2010, five suspects allegedly killing two snow leopards were arrested by the Public Security Bureau of Luntai County, Xinjiang. Four people were sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing and selling four snow leopards on Nov. 19, 2008.  Snow leopards live between 3,000 and 5,500 meters above sea level in the rocky mountains in central and south Asia. It is estimated that only four or five thousand exist in the wild. In China, they can be found in Xinjiang, Qinghai Province and Tibet Autonomous Region.

George Schaller helped with snow leopard cub in 1984

Birdman Of Pokhara
  Nepal has been my second home for more than 30 years. During that time I have written several books set in Kathmandu and authored dozens of articles about conservation and development projects – from the first micro-hydel project in Namche (1983) to the post-war plight of Chitwan’s tigers.During the past month, I have been following closely what seems to be a campaign against Scott Mason, who for nine years has been operating a parahawking business in Pokhara. The writers in Republica were outraged that Mason is keeping endangered Himalayan vultures— even alleging animal abuse. A public outcry has followed these accusations. Quite suddenly, laws that prohibit parahawking – a sport that Mason originated – are allegedly coming to light.

At the risk of taking up a bit more space than is usual, let me share with you a story. In 1984, in Lhasa, Tibet, I encountered two nomads with a cardboard box. Inside the box was a baby snow leopard, which they had captured after shooting its mother (who, during a particularly hard winter, had attacked their livestock). It was the intention of the nomads to sell the snow leopard to the highest bidder: Either a pharmacist, who could sell its bones as a Chinese aphrodisiac, or to a carpet merchant, who could sell the animal’s skin.

I bought the leopard from the nomads myself – an act of compassion that instantly made me a criminal, in possession of an endangered species. Unfortunately, I was in no position to rehabilitate this animal, much less release its progeny (if breeding were possible) into the wild. If I had been, I would have done so without hesitation.

By the greatest good luck, I was introduced to another traveler visiting Lhasa at that time: The renowned zoologist George Schaller, immortalized in Peter Matthiessen’s “The Snow Leopard.” Schaller assured me of one thing: An injured predator – like a snow leopard or a Himalayan raptor – can almost never be returned to the wild. Unable to hunt, they will slowly starve and die. But even Dr Schaller had few alternatives. He acted as an intermediary, and made it possible for me to hand the animal over to the Chinese authorities without penalty. The snow leopard died some years later, in captivity in the Beijing zoo.

Scott Mason has spent nine years rescuing and caring for crippled, poisoned or displaced Himalayan raptors (for an indirect commentary on habitat destruction, please see your own article of Feb 18, ”35 New Hotels in Pokhara”). Locals often bring Mason injured birds, which he nurses back to health. To the best of his knowledge, there are no effective alternatives in Nepal for raptor rehabilitation.

Over the past nine years, Mason has worked with about 25 birds. Whenever possible, they are returned to the wild. Some of the rescued chicks have been “imprinted” in the care of human hosts. They cannot hunt on their own, are trained to fly with paragliding pilots and receive rewards of meat. Like the falcons of Mongolia they remain noble creatures, navigating the thermals above some of Nepal’s most beautiful mountains.

But not all Mason’s birds are suitable for training—and some arrive with broken wings or torn tendons, too damaged to ever fly again. These birds are cared for, fed, and exercised by Mason daily.

It is true that Mason is a paragliding pilot, and that he makes a living from his parahawking business. This, in turn, helps support his conservation efforts. But anyone who has seen Mason caring for his raptors –often for 12 hours a day – appreciates his incredible love for, and commitment to, these birds. Like the Jane Goddall or the late Dian Fossey, his vocation transcends business.

I support all laws which prohibit the keeping or selling, for exploitive purposes, of any endangered species. But Mason is not exploiting Himalayan vultures; he is saving them from extinction. Mason has continually supported international efforts to bring international attention and aid to the plight of these birds – including a project, with Bird Conservation Nepal, to launch a “Vulture Restaurant” in Pokhara which will help fund further raptor rescue efforts.

Without these efforts, and the facilities that Mason has developed, rescued vultures would likely share the fate of my Tibetan snow leopard.

The most sensible course from here would be to accord Mason the well-deserved status of an exemplary conservator and teacher, fully empowering him to work with local authorities and students to publicize the plight of the raptors. He deserves not censure, but the full support of Nepal’s people and government.

I love Nepal, and admire many things about the Nepali people. But I find the tendency to target successful foreigners, and distort their efforts at building a strong infrastructure, enormously troubling. There are many grievous problems that we—Nepalis and visitors together—must address in Nepal. Attacking an internationally respected pilot and conservationist is perhaps not the best use of our energies.

This news item is printed from – a sister publication of Republica national daily.
© Nepal Republic Media Pvt. Ltd. Kathmandu Nepal.

The dragon devours the tiger: Environmental Investigation Agency report includes snow leopard

<By Indrajit Basu
UPI Correspondent
Published: February 01, 2010 Kolkata, India — The year 2010 may be an auspicious year in the almanac of the Chinese. But as China enters the “Year of the Tiger” on Feb. 14, tiger conservationists have renewed their fears on the future of this fast-dwindling wild animal. No animal holds more fascination for the Chinese than the tiger, which is identified with progress, luck and charm, while its body parts are believed to hold high medicinal properties. Consequently, even as the demand for its body parts is already high, it is slated to go up dramatically in the Year of the Tiger. Conservationists fear that the burgeoning demand in the Middle Kingdom will not only increase illegal poaching in Asia, particularly in India, but it also threatens to push tigers to the brink of extinction. “The findings of our most recent investigation in China, concluded around the end of last year, revealed that illegal trade in Asian big cats in China and the availability of tiger skin, bone and teeth, leopard skin and bone, and snow leopard skin is going on unabated despite many efforts to curb that since 2004,” said Debbie Banks, head of the Tiger Campaign of the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency. “During these investigations we had encountered traders in China selling tiger parts, and those involved in the illegal trade said that they were anticipating an increase in profits in 2010. They said everyone will want a tiger skin in the Year of the Tiger.” Banks added that all countries in the region – including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal and Myanmar – that have wild tigers are targeted by poachers having connections with Chinese traders. But since India has the largest number of wild tigers, it is at the center of poaching. “There is a well-established network operating in the trans-Himalayan region,” she said. Chinese traders, allege investigators, are buying tiger parts from poachers in the region at exorbitant prices, and have particularly established extensive contacts and well-organized smuggling routes along the porous India-Nepal- Myanmar border. According to Peter Pueschel, the Germany-based wildlife trade program manager of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Asian tigers are not the only ones under threat. “Chinese demand is also increasing the poaching of tigers in the eastern Russian region which shares its borders with China,” he said. Wild tigers face unprecedented threats today, including reduction of habitat, depletion of prey and continued poaching. Recent reports have found that areas occupied by tigers have shrunk by as much as 41 percent in the last 10 years. Much of this is due to the doubling of the human population since 1965 in Asia’s 14 tiger-range countries. The biggest reason for the alarming reduction of the tiger population, however, is the explosive demand for tiger parts from the Chinese. Sixty years ago over 100,000 tigers roamed the wild; now the global population has dwindled to less than 3,200. India, with about 1,400, has the largest share of wild tigers, but this population is also fast depleting. India’s national tiger census figures released last year recorded a 60-percent drop since 1997, when there were 3,508 tigers. The New Delhi-based Wildlife Protection Society of India recorded 85 cases of tiger mortality in 2009. Of these at least 32 tigers were killed by poachers; 12 were found in the field and parts of 20 others were seized. In the first few weeks of this year six tigers have been found dead already. “Wild tigers must also die from natural circumstances, but the poaching and seizure figures account for 38 percent of the tiger mortality in India for 2009, which is simply unsustainable for a species which is already in dire straits,” said Belinda Wright, the founder-director of WPSI. WPSI started tracking the mortality rate of Indian tigers in 2008, but the poaching and seizure figures for years 2008, 2007 and 2006 were 29, 27 and 37 respectively. “There is a certain demand for tiger bone medicines in some mainly Asian countries but the rampant demand comes from China, which is the only country that processes tiger bones,” said Wright. This is not to say there is no awareness of the threat to tigers in China. In fact, following a total depletion of its wild tigers, China banned trade in wild tiger parts and started seizing and arresting “tiger criminals” from 1993. However, conservationists say that tiger parts are so central to Chinese culture that enforcement officials are often willing to turn a blind eye to trade in tiger parts and products. “Although China has laws prohibiting the import and export of Asian big cat parts and there is a domestic trade ban as well, there isn’t the commitment, investment and also enforcement to stop the trade. We find there is big gap in China’s enforcement efforts. Our concern is that the basic elements of investigation and enforcement in China are not happening. They may react to information but there is no proactive effort to control trading of tiger parts,” said Grace Gabriel, the Beijing-based Asia Regional Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. That may be due to the typical attitudes of Chinese toward the consumption and conservation of tigers. According to a study released in July 2008 by a group of researchers from Save the Tiger Fund and other groups, most Chinese said they continued consuming tiger parts despite the local ban. “We surveyed 1,880 residents from a total of six Chinese cities to understand urban Chinese tiger consumption behavior, knowledge of trade issues and attitudes towards tiger conservation. We found that 43 percent of respondents had consumed some product alleged to contain tiger parts. Within this user group, 71 percent said that they preferred wild products over farmed ones,” the study said. The other reason why enforcement is lacking in China is the existence of large tiger farms that currently rear close to 7,000 tigers in captivity. “These farms are owned by very influential people who would like to see the trade ban lifted and tiger trade legalized, since those people have invested large sums of money in the farms. They are almost waiting for the wild tiger to be extinct so that they can make a killing on their stock pile. They are also lobbying the Chinese government to change the law,” said Banks. Conservationists say driving wild tigers to extinction actually serves the tiger farmers’ economic interests because, while it takes between US$7000 and $10,000 to raise a farmed tiger to the size where it is worthwhile to kill it, killing and smuggling in a wild tiger costs no more than $3,000. The Chinese government too is sending mixed signals. “China is not backing down from the tiger farming issue, and does not intend to follow the wishes of the international community on the total banning of tiger farms and tiger parts trade. By allowing breeding and the stockpiling of tiger parts, they are sending a clear message – to the world, to the tiger farm industry, to consumers in China, and to enforcement authorities – that tiger bone trade will one day be legalized,” said Wright. Worldwide bans on tiger trade have helped Russia‘s tiger population recover and other wild tiger populations to persist. Similarly, stopping the tiger trade and the farming of tigers in China can also save wild tigers, say conservationists. “We have been urging the Chinese government not to legalize trade in farmed tiger products because that can only expand opportunities to sell parts and products from wild tigers,” said Grace Gabriel. “As a Chinese I think it is important that we use the Year of the Tiger as an opportunity to educate other Chinese that we do not want the tiger to be the dragon, the only animal in the Chinese zodiac that does not exist anymore,” she added.

China Steps Back From Tiger Trade Ban Lift

January 27, 2010 China (ChattahBox) – After announcing that they were considering lifting the ban on the sale of tiger parts, China has backed away from that debate, instead saying they will be increasing attempts to protect the now endangered animals. The government had been considering removing the ban that had been placed in 1993 after increased pressures from tiger farmers with overstock started to create some sway. But in the end they chose to uphold the ban, and have promised to increase efforts to protect those few tigers that remain in the wild in China. But many say that the efforts being put forth against poachers now are not enough. “We have been offered tiger, leopard and snow leopard parts in China. These are things that China should have been doing for the last ten years,” Debbie Banks of the Environmental Investigation Agency said. “By allowing breeding and the stockpiling of tiger parts they are sending a clear message that the trade in tiger bones will one day be legalized.” There are now only 18-24 tigers left in China, down from the 4,000 living there in the 1950’s. Tiger parts, such as claw, penis, whiskers, and skins are used in traditional medicine, and as decoration.

Update on 2008 Indianapolis Prize winner Dr. George Schaller

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE from Indianapolis Zoo  

September 24, 2009

Indianapolis Prize Winning Conservationist
Fights for Snow Leopards’ Survival

INDIANAPOLIS — As Vice President of Panthera and Senior Conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, George B. Schaller, Ph.D., is relentless in his pursuit to save endangered species across the globe. The winner of the second Indianapolis Prize credits the award with helping him reach some important milestones in his work to save snow leopards in 2009.

Generous with his time and resources, Schaller used a portion of the $100,000 Indianapolis Prize to visit China’s Qinghai Province in May 2009 to  help initiate snow leopard programs supported by Panthera, an organization whose mission is to conserve the world’s 36 species of wild cats. Most of Schaller’s work was conducted in the Sanjiangyuan Reserve (“Source of Three Rivers Reserve”—Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong), which covers nearly 58,000 square miles, primarily at elevations above 11,800 feet.  In addition to assessing snow leopard presence and threats, the trip provided Peking University Ph.D. student Li Juan with the training she needs to start a snow leopard study this year. Schaller and Juan traveled more than 2,600 miles to evaluate potential study areas for the student’s research project, and Schaller will continue to mentor Juan as she pursues her Ph.D.

While in Asia, Schaller met with representatives from the Snow Leopard Trust and Shan Shui, one of the leading conservation organizations in China, to create a new collaborative snow leopard research and conservation program. These organizations signed a long-term agreement that will bring much needed expertise and funding to efforts to save snow leopards in China, where as much as 50 percent of the remaining wild population exists. 

“George Schaller’s extensive research, fieldwork and training have been essential to saving snow leopards in regions of China,” said Tom McCarthy, Director of Snow Leopard Programs for Panthera. “I can’t think of a better use of the Indianapolis Prize funds than teaching future generations the urgency and necessity of wildlife conservation.”

“The important aspects of this project for me,” added Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, “are its collaborative and long-term nature.  It’s George’s innate ability to bring people together and to forge alliances that overcome the short-term problems of political or geographic conflicts in order to serve the greater good that makes him a hero for me, and for the world.  It seems he has again worked his magic for the snow leopards.”  The nominees for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize will be announced on October 7, 2009. To learn more about Panthera’s efforts to save snow leopards and how to become involved, visit More information about the Indianapolis Prize is available at  
# # # The biennial $100,000 Indianapolis Prize represents the largest individual monetary award for animal conservation in the world and is given as an unrestricted gift to the chosen honoree. The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant component of its mission to inspire local and global communities and to celebrate, protect and preserve our natural world through conservation, education and research. This award brings the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species. The Eli Lilly and Company Foundation has provided funding for the Indianapolis Prize since 2006.  

If you are interested in using a photo of Schaller or the Indianapolis Prize logo, please see the following links: and