Snow Leopard Trust Updates
On April 18th, our field researcher extraordinaire Orjan once again successfully captured a healthy snow leopard. We are excited to see where this cat’s home range is located and what size area he patrols.
The special opportunity of naming this cat – the 10th male to be part of the study – was auctioned off at our Fall Event. The winner is a board member of the Snow Leopard Trust, and he has chosen to name the cat in honor of his granddaughter Catalina, who was born late last year. The Greek origin of the name Catalina means “Pure” and this new snow leopard will be named after the Mongolian translation. We are proud to welcome “Ariun” into our study in honor of Catalina and her family.
Thanks to Orjan for his 36th safe capture of a snow leopard and to Catalina, who now has a beautiful namesake roaming the mountains of Mongolia.Photo of Ariun Courtesy of the Snow Leopard Trust/ Panthera
UPDATE: We need less than $360 to reach our New Donor Match goal of $13,000! If you make a first-time donation or adoption purchase before April 30th, you will help us meet our goal and every donation will be doubled!
Are you wondering how far will your support of snow leopard protection will go? When you support the Snow Leopard Trust, you are ensuring that snow leopards are protected in important areas of 5 countries where snow leopards live. Together, these five nations contain 75% of the world’s population of wild snow leopards. In each country, research, education and protection programs work in tandem to better protect these cats.
China: We are working with monks from the Gongsa Monastery, who are helping us with research and get our conservation message reach many people in the area.
India: 10 villages are participating in conservation programs—either through livestock insurance programs or by identifying grazing-free reserves. And education programs are helping change attitudes towards snow leopards.
Kyrgyzstan: Last year, staff found that 18 cats inhabit the study area in the Sarychat-Ertash Reserve, and that poaching by outside hunters is a growing threat. Now, the Snow Leopard Enterprises handicrafts program has re-initiated work with 3 communities, and reached out to 2 more.
Mongolia: The Snow Leopard Enterprises program is working with 260 households to make handicrafts. A pilot livestock insurance program, modeled after the program in India, has engaged 32 households to limit impacts from snow leopard’s taking wildlife.
Pakistan: The Snow Leopard Enterprises program and Livestock Vaccination programs continue to engage households in conservation. Last year, Researchers explored a new area for work, Gilgit-Baltisan, conducting surveys of over 9,000 households about threats to the cats.
We have until April 30th to raise $13,000 from first time donors. If we do, every dollar will be matched, doubling the impact on snow leopard conservation efforts! We have raised a total of $12,350 so far, and we need your help to make it all the way!
With so many projects planned for this year, now is a great time to look back at some of the hard work and success of 2011. One of our focus areas for snow leopard conservation is the Spiti Valley of northern India, and we are proud to share an update about our success!
Threat to snow leopards:
Research has shown that herders in snow leopard habitats can lose 3-12% of their total livestock to snow leopards per year. This causes severe economic hardship, and snow leopards are often persecuted as a result.
Working with communities to find a solution:
In 2011, the Trust supported 10 villages in their effort to run community-based conservation programs. 7 villages are managing livestock insurance programs aimed at compensating herders for livestock to snow leopards, and 3 villages established grazing-free reserves that leave land and resources open for the snow leopard’s wild prey to use.
Additionally, 20 schools in the Spiti Valley participated in multiple educational events during the year. We reached out to a total of 750 children and 50 teachers!
We center these programs on sound science and research. We used 40 research cameras to collect data for estimating snow leopard abundance and pioneered a new method to estimate prey populations. Within 5 villages, interviews were completed to assess perceptions and attitudes towards snow leopards as well.
Because you support our efforts, there were no reported cases of a snow leopard or a prey species being poached or killed within these communities!
But we can’t stop there! There were reports of a snow leopard being killed in a nearby village, a place where we are not currently active. We plan to reach out to that village this summer to see if we can partner with them and reduce the conflicts between people and snow leopards.
When snow leopards predate on lifestock, herding families must make a difficult choice between protecting their livelyhood and protecting the cats. Last year, we discovered that for the people living within snow leopard habitat, the answer to this difficult question was not clear.
When the snow leopard Shonkor killed more than a dozen domestic sheep and goats, we were concerned. We empathized with the herder, and worried about the safety of Shonkor. Incidents like this have driven other herders in Mongolia to kill snow leopards. But this time, the herder contacted our staff. Our field team immediately went to help.
The herder’s first tactics had not worked. He had, in an attempt to keep the cat from killing more of his livestock, parceled out one carcass daily to the cat, hoping it would be too full to kill again. The cat then didn’t want to leave! He stayed, right next to the yurt – and it scared the family.
Our staff used knowledge gleaned from our in-depth research to find a better solution. They helped the herder move one of the dead animals to a hillside far from the yurt, and to get rid of the rest. Shonkor was able to feed on the carcass without threatening the family or the rest of the herd. The family then diligently patrolled the corral – flashing lights at night, making noise, and discouraging Shonkor from returning. He didn’t. As for the family, we helped them to join the new Mongolian livestock insurance program so they can be compensated for livestock losses like this in the future.
This situation highlighted an important need to educate communities about better ways prevent and respond to snow leopard predation.
The first step was to conduct day-long workshops with participants of the Snow Leopard Enterprises program. Over 330 people met to share how they already address snow leopard visits, and learn what additional information they need and want.
Now, Nadia M., Conservation Education Manager for the Trust and its partner organization SLCF Mongolia, has developed a poster summarizing the best practices from the herders and international experts. We plan on distributing 500 posters to people in more than 25 villages, as well as park rangers and others who need the information.
Hopefully, the end result will be fewer of the types of conflicts that can lead to snow leopard killings.
Unfortunately, Shonkor passed away of natural causes in August of 2011. We are grateful that he was able to teach us so much about snow leopards, and how to live in peace with them.