Press Release, March 3rd, 2016. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
A total of ten Kyrgyz wildlife rangers have received a Citizen Ranger Wildlife Award for their courage in the fight against illegal hunting in the country’s snow leopard habitat in 2015. They were publicly honored in a ceremony in Bishkek today, on World Wildlife Day.
What’s the most important rule for any conservationist working with rural communities to protect wildlife? To be present! In our program countries, we have dedicated field staff who spend weeks, and sometimes months, living with the communities we partner with; changing minds and hearts, and laying the groundwork for successful snow leopard conservation.
Mongolian snow leopard researcher Sumbe Tomorsukh has been posthumously awarded the Freeman Family Snow Leopard Conservation Award, one of the most prestigious honors in the field, for his outstanding efforts to save this endangered cat.
Dear Snow Leopard Trust supporters
Charles Kettering said, “Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress.” Here we are at the start of 2016, and I am tearing off a leaf. With excitement, hope, and some sadness I am writing to let you know that I am transitioning out of the position of Executive Director at the Snow Leopard Trust.
Like all positive transitions, this change is both bitter and sweet. I have been at the Trust for almost 16 years. I had the privilege of working with the founder, Helen Freeman, and now have become the organization’s longest serving Executive Director. One of the things I’m most proud of at the Snow Leopard Trust is that our strength exists as an organization and is far more robust than any one person. Over the years we’ve transitioned many key positions and we’ve always come through stronger. I’m 100% certain that we will have the same experience transitioning the executive director position.
Several years ago we put in place a Succession Plan that laid plans for both my planned or unplanned departure (I’m very glad we are using the planned option!). The Board of directors is now implementing that plan and we will be undertaking an international search for a new executive director.
I will remain in my position until February 5th at which point Dr. Charu Mishra, our long-serving director of science and conservation will take on the acting executive director position. I’ve worked with Charu since 2001 and I have to say one of my greatest regrets will be no longer working with and learning from Charu on a day to day basis. He is an amazing conservationist, manager, and friend and he is more than up to serving as the acting director.
I am very happy to report that I will remain involved in the Snow Leopard Trust in my new position as a member of the Board of Directors. As a director I plan to stay involved in helping the new executive director on an as needed basis and helping with fundraising and organizational strategy.
I feel like I’m leaving my role as executive director while the Snow Leopard Trust is at its strongest. We are playing an active role in the 12 country Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program initiated by the President of Kyrgyzstan. Our 5 country programs and 50 plus field staff continue to expand their conservation, education, and research programs, and the Trust’s support of the Snow Leopard Network continues to pay dividends by helping researchers and conservationists around the world stay connected via the Network website and bibliography.
I am leaving on this high note to take the newly created position of Chief Operating Officer with the Seattle Aquarium, another incredible member of the Seattle wildlife and conservation community. For the past year or so I’ve wondered about the best timing for me to leave the Snow Leopard Trust. I’m too young to retire but staying another 10 plus years at the Trust did not sound like a good thing for the organization. Fortunately this great opportunity came up at the Aquarium at a time that is right for both the Snow Leopard Trust and me.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for an amazing 16 years. Thank you for your support, guidance, and belief in the Snow Leopard Trust. Thank you for the projects and people you have invested in, and the concepts you have made a reality. I look forward to continuing to work with you on protecting these amazing cats in my new role as a member of the Board and will be counting on your full support in helping the new executive director feel as welcomed as I was.
Brad Rutherford, Executive Director
The mountain wilderness of Sarychat Ertash, in Kyrgyzstan’s majestic Tian Shan mountains, is home to a rich and diverse fauna, which includes the endangered snow leopard, but also brown bears, lynx, and many other species.
One of our research cameras – deployed in the area to catch glimpses of the elusive snow leopard – recently captured amazing footage of a brown bear mother and her cubs. Enjoy!
This work has been supported by the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, the Chattanooga Zoo, and Fondation Segré / Whitley Fund for Nature.