Villagers from small herding communities in Ladakh are teaming up with Snow Leopard Trust field staff to improve the corrals where they keep their livestock and reduce conflicts with snow leopards and other predators.
The remote Rong valley in Ladakh is home to a sizeable snow leopard population. It’s also dotted with small villages, most of which are inhabited by herder families. As snow leopards and other predators prey on these communities’ livestock, conflicts between people and wildlife are a fact of life in this region.
Last year, a team of Snow Leopard Trust researchers visited the village of Tarchit to assess the extent of these conflicts. During the day, all of Tarchit’s livestock were brought to pastures above the village by appointed herders to graze. However, the animals would spend the night unguarded in their owners’ corrals – where they regularly fell victim to predation.
Villagers reported losing about 70 goats and sheep to snow leopards in 2012 alone – almost 20% of the community’s total livestock holdings.
Predictably, attitudes toward the snow leopard weren’t too positive.
In previous years, our team had visited various other villages in Ladakh, and reactions were similar across the board. Now, they knew what needed to be done: Build better corrals!
After Snow Leopard Trust supporters provided the necessary funds in spring, our team went back to Tarchit this summer, loaded with construction materials such as wire mesh, poles and sturdy doors and frames for 17 new corrals – one for each Tarchit family with livestock. Together with the community, they built strong walls using local materials and affixed a wire-mesh on top with poles to support it.
The local community has promised to keep track of all predation to see how much of a difference these new corrals are making.
In the village of Skidmang, where our teams helped improve communal corrals the previous year, the effects are already being felt: While in 2012, 25 livestock had been killed inside their old corral, only 2 animals were lost in 2013, after the new corrals had been built – and both of those were taken out on the open pasture. The villagers are very pleased, and attitudes toward the cat that’s sharing their mountainous home are improving.
Before the big snowfalls cut Rong valley off from the rest of India, our team hopes to complete corrals in at least two more villages, if time and funds allow.
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A family of wild snow leopards gets up to funny business in front of a remote-sensor research camera in Mongolia’s Nemegt mountains.
Devender Singh Chauhan Receives Prestigious Award from Disney Conservation Fund
Seattle WA / Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India, November 12, 2014 – The Snow Leopard Trust and Nature Conservation Foundation India are thrilled to announce that Devender Singh Chauhan, Range Forest Officer in the Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh state, India, has been honored with a Disney Conservation Hero Award from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). The award recognizes local citizens for their tireless efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats and educate communities.
Working as the Range Forest Officer for Spiti at the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, Mr. Chauhan is the government official in charge of managing ecological resources in the Spiti area, an important snow leopard habitat. In this role, he has emerged as a keen and innovative wildlife enthusiast and an exemplary snow leopard conservation champion.
Mr. Chauhan was full of joy upon learning of his award: “This prestigious award is a great honor for me. It has boosted my morale to continue my long association with wildlife conservation with dedication.”
“This award is dedicated to all my friends working in the remote, rugged and fragile landscape of Trans-Himalaya in adverse conditions”, he added.
A respected leader in his community
Approaching both local communities and wildlife with great respect, Mr. Chauhan has been able to foster an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual trust between authorities, communities and conservation activists in Spiti – achieving notable successes for wildlife and the environment.
For example, several villagers approached Mr. Chauhan about the blue sheep and ibex that were raiding their crops and destroying an entire year’s earnings. Since both of those ungulates – key snow leopard prey species – are protected, the community looked to Mr. Chauhan to come up with a suitable intervention.
The way he resolved the problem exemplifies his unique approach. First he talked with the villagers to find out when and where exactly these raids on crops were usually happening. This revealed that the raids mostly took place in the initial months of the agricultural cycle, during daylight hours and in fields that were relatively close to cliffs. Then, in response, Mr. Chauhan suggested local youth work as guard watchers at these locations and times. This simple solution had a huge impact, bringing down damage drastically while also providing youth with temporary employment.
Using the excellent relationships he has fostered in the region, Mr. Chauhan has also been instrumental in bringing together government agencies, conservation organizations and local communities in an effort to control Spiti’s growing feral dog population, which has recently emerged as a significant threat to snow leopards, wild prey, and domestic livestock.
His work helped initiate the first dog sterilization camp that has ever been held in Spiti. What was once a terrible and growing problem in which feral dogs were suffering, attacking livestock and wildlife, and reproducing rapidly, is now being reversed thanks to these concerted efforts.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund focuses on protecting wildlife and connecting kids and families with nature. Since 2004, Disney has honored more than 100 leaders around the world for their extraordinary conservation efforts.
For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature and a complete list of 2014 Conservation Hero Award recipients, visit www.disney.com/conservation.
About Nature Conservation Foundation
Leading the fight for the conservation of India’s unique wildlife heritage with innovative research and imaginative solutions, NCF India works in a range of wildlife habitats, from coral reefs and tropical rainforests to the high peaks of the Himalaya. Through their High Altitude program, they partner with the Snow Leopard Trust to protect this endangered cat’s fragile mountain ecosystem.
About the Snow Leopard Trust
The Snow Leopard Trust, based in Seattle, WA, is a world leader in conservation of the endangered snow leopard, conducting pioneering research and partnering with communities as well as authorities in snow leopard habitat to protect the cat.
Snow Leopard Trust
email@example.com / 206-632-2421
The mountains of Central Asia may seem barren – but there’s A LOT of funny business going on along those steep mountain slopes! Check out some of the fun pictures our research cameras have captured over the last months!
We’ve watched some critters have dinner…
… and become dinner themselves a bit later…
Meanwhile, a bunny looks for answers from above…
While cats, being cats (and the undisputed apex predator of these mountains), have some fun playing catch…
Our remote-sensor research cameras, deployed deep in the snow leopard’s rugged mountain habitat, take a photo whenever they detect a passing animal through movement and body heat. They snap thousands of pictures of birds, marmots, sheep, occasional bears and even stray dogs – and, of course, the elusive snow leopard!
The snow leopard images allow us to estimate and monitor cat populations and figure out which areas are most crucial for their survival.
We’re a dedicated bunch here at the Snow Leopard Trust. Our field researchers regularly brace blizzards, treacherous horse back rides and weeks of dried mutton in order to find out more about this elusive cat. Those of us working from the comforts of our Seattle office bravely make it through the city’s famous drizzle on our daily commute. But none of us has anything on Ryan Hill when it comes to going the extra mile for the cats! Or, in his case, the extra 250 kilometers. Through the ice-cold desert of Antarctica.
He first heard of the highly endangered snow leopard and the work of the Snow Leopard Trust when the Edrington Group, his employers acquired the brand, Snow Leopard Vodka – the world’s first ethical vodka. Donating 15% of its profits to conservation, Snow Leopard Vodka has raised more than $130,000 for these cats to date.
Upon learning about this fascinating cat, Ryan decided to use his passion – running – to raise even more awareness and funds for its conservation. Having signed up for The Last Desert (Antarctica), one of the toughest long-distance races in the world, he decided to set up a fundraising campaign for the snow leopard around his incredible challenge. His goal is to raise £25,000 (around $40,000) – and you can contribute! Just visit his campaign website to help!
Starting in Ushuaia, a town at the very southern tip of Argentina, Ryan and his co-competitors have boarded an expedition ship to sail across the Drake Passage earlier this week. Having reached Antarctica, these brave men and women have now begun their 250 km race across the icy continent! Temperatures on the course apparently reach as low as -20°C / -4°F, though we’ll have to wait for an update from Ryan to confirm…
Please visit www.run4snowleopard.com to learn more about Ryan’s crazy adventure and his passion for snow leopards!