Dr Muhammad Ali Nawaz, who leads the Snow Leopard Trust’s Pakistan program and holds a faculty position at the renowned Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, has been awarded the prize for his efforts to protect the endangered snow leopard in the mountains of northern Pakistan.
London, UK / Seattle, WA: HRH The Princess Royal presented a Whitley Award, a prestigious international nature conservation prize worth £35,000 in project funding, to Muhammad Ali Nawaz (Ali) at a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society, London yesterday, in honor of his work securing important landscapes for the protection of snow leopards in Pakistan.
Snow leopards are considered critically endangered in Pakistan where Ali is working in the Pamir-Karakoram mountain complex to conserve the species. Threatened by poaching, habitat degradation and subsequent decline of natural prey, snow leopards are sometimes killed by herders in retaliation to livestock predation. This loss to herders’ livelihoods can be the equivalent of a month’s salary, but through the introduction of livestock insurance and vaccination programs that buffer against livestock losses and increase tolerance, Ali is reducing human-wildlife conflict.
Ali Nawaz is Director of the Snow Leopard Foundation Pakistan, and serves as the Pakistan Program Director for the Snow Leopard Trust. He also holds a faculty position in the Department of Animal Sciences at the renowned Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan.
With his Whitley Award Ali will bring together people, NGOs and government in a unified effort to develop a multi-stakeholder strategy for 25,000km2 of this mountainous habitat.
This will be Pakistan’s first landscape-level strategy for snow leopard conservation and will be used as a model to guide future conservation planning in the country. The project will train 50 wildlife managers, whilst engaging with 6,000 herders to enable the co-existence of communities and carnivores. Ali’s work represents one of the first steps towards the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program’s (GSLEP) goal to secure 23 important snow leopard habitats by 2020.
Edward Whitley, Founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature, said: “WFN focuses on conservation success stories and the progress that’s being made. The Awards Ceremony is about recognising and celebrating that – winning those small battles which cumulatively add up to significant change at the national level. In addition to the financial benefit of winning an Award, our winners receive professional communications training to turn scientists into ambassadors, so they’re able to communicate what they’re doing to the public and to policy makers.”
Ali Nawaz is the second conservationist partnering with the Snow Leopard Trust to be recognized with a Whitley Award. Current SLT Science & Conservation Director Charu Mishra won the prestigious prize in 2005. The Whitley Fund for Nature has since been a major partner in our efforts to protect the endangered snow leopard, and is currently supporting our work across the cat’s range through WFN Partnership Funding by Fondation Segré (managed by the Whitley Fund for Nature).
Ali is one of seven individuals to have been awarded a share of prize money worth £245,000 this year, winning the Whitley Award donated by The Shears Foundation in memory of Trevor Shears.
Other winners in the 2016 Whitley Awards are:
Gilbert Baase Adum – Ghana
Saving Ghana’s frogs: a giant leap forward for biodiversity conservation
The Whitley Award donated by Sarah Chenevix-Trench
Farwiza Farhan – Indonesia
Citizen lawsuits: defending local livelihoods and Sumatra’s iconic species in the Leuser Ecosystem
The Whitley Award for Conservation in Ape Habitats donated by the Arcus Foundation
Makala Jasper – Tanzania
Forest stewardship: community conservation of coastal forests in the greater Selous Ecosystem, Tanzania
The Whitley Award donated by WWF-UK
Karau Kuna – Papa New Guinea
Tree kangaroos as a flagship to protect Papua New Guinea’s spectacular wildlife
The Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust in memory of William Brake
Alexander Rukhaia – Georgia
Magnificent migrants: safeguarding birds-of-prey negotiating the Batumi Flyway, Georgia
The Whitley Award donated by the Garfield Weston Foundation
Juliette Velosoa – Madagascar
Saving the Critically Endangered side-necked turtle and its freshwater habitat, Madagascar
The Whitley Award donated by the Garden House School Parents’ Association
Sir David Attenborough, a Trustee of the Whitley Fund for Nature, added: “Empowering local people, who understand what the problems are, and who have the local knowledge, determination and vested interest to find the solutions is the very best way to ensure long term protection for the natural world.”
HRH The Princess Royal will also present the 2016 Whitley Gold Award – a prestigious profile and funding prize awarded to a previous Whitley Award winner in recognition of their outstanding contribution to conservation. The Whitley Gold Award is donated by The Friends and Scottish Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature and is worth £50,000.
This year’s recipient is 2011 Whitley Award winner, Hotlin Ompusunggu for her project – ‘Dentistry and reforestation: scaling up models to protect orangutans and improve health, Borneo’. Unusually for a conservationist, Hotlin is a dental surgeon. Her NGO, Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is providing healthcare incentives for local people to reduce the need to exploit rainforest habitat in Indonesia.
Since Hotlin won a Whitley Award in 2011, the project has seen a significant decrease in illegal logging whilst improving the health of 24,000 people living around Gunung Palung National Park – home to 10% of the world’s orangutans. Hotlin’s Gold Award will enable her to work with Park authorities to manage this important habitat, as well as establish Indonesia’s first ‘conservation hospital’ and explore expansion of the model to other potential sites across the country. Joining the Judging Panel to assist in winner selection, the Gold Award winner also acts as mentor to the new Whitley Award winners.
The Snow Leopard Trust congratulates all winners on their outstanding achievements to save the planet’s biodiversity, and thanks the Whitley Fund for Nature as well as all other partners and donors for their generous support.
Visit www.whitleyaward.org to find out more.
Wildlife rangers on the front lines of snow leopard conservation stop poachers to protect these magnificent cats. 7th grader and New York City Cyclones hockey goalie Oliver Huston stops pucks to help achieve the same goal. Last season, this young netminder raised $1 for conservation projects from friends and family for every saved puck. At the end of the season, Oliver had made more than 500 saves, and raised more than $500 for snow leopards!
In many ways, the goalie is to a hockey team what a wildlife ranger is to endangered animals: the last line of defense. Both jobs are difficult, and certainly not for the faint of heart. Perhaps its fitting then that wildlife lover and hockey enthusiast Oliver Huston chose to don mask and pads and brave the shots fired by the opposing team, rather than going on the attack himself.
This past season, Oliver decided to use his passion – making saves on the ice – to help save one of his favorite animals, the snow leopard. His love for the endangered ‘Ghost of the Mountain’ goes back several years:
“When I was in 3rd grade (I’m now in 7th), we raised money through a bake sale and had to decide what charity to donate to. We did research on different charities and because I liked wildlife I came across the Snow Leopard Trust as a charity we could support. I made a presentation to my class on why we should support the charity. I guess it was successful because Snow Leopard Trust tied for the first place in the vote”, Oliver says.
The cat caught his eye with its beauty, but it was their need for help that made him act: “At first I was attracted to the charity because the snow leopards were adorable on the home page. When I read more, though, I learned that the situation that they are in is unique and there are more complex issues involved, including the local population who are trying to protect their livelihood, which can be threatened by snow leopards taking their farm animals.”
Every Save Counts
In 2015, Oliver decided to raise funds for these cats once again – and he found a highly original and effective way to do so: he got friends and family members to pledge $1 for every save he’d make during the upcoming hockey season.
Oliver’s team, the New York City Cyclones, consisted of 17 players aged 11 and 12 from New York City and Brooklyn. The Pee Wee A level team competed in the Long Island Amateur Hockey League and was successful in making it to the league play offs again this year! Their goaltender clearly had a large role in their successful run. In 24 games, Oliver made 585 saves – an average of 24.375 stops per game. In one game in November alone, he stopped a whopping 52 shots!
His teammates were in the dark about his challenge to help save snow leopards at first. “I didn’t talk about it much, just focused on doing my job in the net and stopping pucks”, Oliver says. In February, as he passed 500 saves, his mom told his coaches about his amazing project, and they handed Oliver a certificate to celebrate his achievements. As the season ended, his total stood at 585 shots saved – and $585 raised for snow leopards!
When Oliver’s mom, Eva, sent the donation in his name and told us about his project, we simply had to find out more and share Oliver’s story with our supporters. “I’m hoping that more people will learn about my project and find their own ways to help snow leopards too”, Oliver says.
“You Can Make A Difference, No Matter How Small You May Seem”
Oliver draws inspiration from one of his favorite NHL players, Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres, and the unlikely story of how this relatively unknown player became an NHL All-Star. “I like him because he’s from Latvia, where my family is also from, and it’s a place I really loved visiting. But most of all, I think it is cool that he was voted an NHL All-Star in 2015 because of the support of his country! Latvians were passionate about voting for him and it shows how you can make a difference no matter how small you may seem to the rest of the world. It’s about how much you care about the cause. Snow leopards may have a small population but if people are passionate enough, we can make a difference.”
His other favorite player is a more likely choice for a goalie living in New York City: Henrik Lundqvist, the superstar netminder and human wall of the NHL’s New York Rangers. “ I really enjoy watching him play. We go to a lot of Rangers games and I always learn something from him. And he has very cool masks”, Oliver says. “Maybe Lundqvist will get a snow leopard painted on his next one. [HE SHOULD!] I hope I can get mine painted like that too for my next season with the NYC Cyclones.”
NHL or Wildlife Conservation?
Given Oliver’s big passions for both hockey and wildlife, we wanted to know which of them he would rather turn into a dream career. “That’s a hard one”, Oliver says. “On one hand, being an NHL goalie would be very exciting and I could also use my job to raise awareness for Snow Leopard Trust when I was off the ice. On the other hand, being a snow leopard scientist would let me interact with the animals and make a difference for snow leopards directly.”
We’re pretty sure he’ll do great in both fields – or whatever else he chooses to dedicate himself to.
We’d like to thank Oliver and Eva Huston for making this inspiring story come to life, and for sharing it with us. We’re also grateful to Oliver’s teammates and coaches of the New York Cyclones for letting the opposing team take a good number of shots for Oliver to save. Good luck next season!
Snow Leopard Vodka, the iconic premium spirit with a mission to save its namesake cat, is celebrating its 10th anniversary today! By donating 15% of its profits to snow leopard conservation, the spirits brand has raised a total of $270,000 for the benefit of this endangered feline! Thank you to Stephen Sparrow, Snow Leopard Trust UK, Edrington, and the many affiliated businesses and aficionados who drink and promote Snow Leopard Vodka, and thereby improve the lives of snow leopards and local communities.
Here’s a ‘top-10’ highlight of great impacts Snow Leopard Vodka has made for these cats
1) Anti-Poaching Rewards
In Kyrgyzstan, poaching of snow leopards and their prey is a major problem. Frontline rangers often lack the training and support they need to apprehend poachers and turn them in to the authorities. In response, we created a ‘ranger rewards program’ to publicly recognize and financially awards rangers for their anti-poaching efforts. IWT Challenge Fund through the UK Government helped us expand this program nationally. Snow Leopard Trust UK and Edrington provided matching funds for the creation of a Trust Fund to support the rewards into perpetuity. In March 2015, this program was able to award its first 10 rangers in Kyrgyzstan!
Read the full press release here: http://www.snowleopard.org/anti-poaching-heroes-honored-on-world-wildlife-day
2) Dzud relief in Mongolia
In the winter of 2010, Mongolia experienced their worst winter in three decades. Families suffered unimaginable losses as millions of livestock—their primary source of livelihood—were wiped out by extreme cold. Snow Leopard Trust UK stepped up in this time of dire need, donating over $11,000 from sales of Snow Leopard Vodka to bring emergency aid to local communities and help them rebuild their lives. The legacy of this gift continues today, through thriving relationships with over 30 rural herding communities in Mongolia that are working to protect snow leopards.
3) Research camera surveys in Kyrgyzstan
In fall 2013, SLT UK and Edrington supported a pilot study in Kyrgyzstan using 10 remote sensor research cameras to photograph and count snow leopards in the important Sarychat-Ertash Nature Reserve. The following spring, they enabled the launch of a full study using over 30 cameras. This is the first long-term, systematic survey of snow leopard populations in Kyrgyzstan!
4) Handicrafts and Women Empowerment
When you help women, you help the whole family. Through our Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE) program, we help women increase their family income through handicraft sales. The extra income offsets losses due to wildlife damage, and improves people’s attitudes towards snow leopards and wildlife conservation. Over the past 10 years, contributions from Snow Leopard Vodka sales have helped expand the program and improve the product line. Today Snow Leopard Enterprises is reaching over 380 women across four countries, and most women earn on average $160 US/year in handicraft sales – an increase of their annual income of as much as 40%.
5) Conservation Bonuses
Every community we work with signs Conservation Contracts agreeing to protect snow leopards and their prey. If even one person in the community violated the contract, bonus monies can be lost. Last year, we found no signs of poaching in or around partner communities in Mongolia—a true community-wide success! Over $9,000 US was provided to communities in conservation bonus monies.
For many kids, going to camp is a transformative experience. During the summer months, the Snow Leopard Trust hosts hands-on education camps for children ages 10-14 to bring them closer to nature. Camp activities focus on raising awareness about local biodiversity, landscapes, and the need for conservation. A particular favorite of Stephen Sparrow’s since Snow Leopard Vodka’s founding, the camps have reached incredible results: Since 2006, we’ve been able to hold camps every year in northern India, reaching over 1,100 children.
7) Nature Clubs
In India and Pakistan, sales from Snow Leopard Vodka are supporting over 60 Nature Clubs in local schools. These clubs reach out to and educate their peers on nature and wildlife conservation. For instance, in June 2015, one Nature Club in India helped school children learn about how ‘the Earth is heating up’. Our field staff introduced the basic concepts of greenhouse gases and climate change with examples from their local regions to the children in classes 6 to 8.
8) Predator-proof Corrals
In Ladakh, India, local people live in small villages and rely on livestock for survival. Families suffer incredible hardship when their valuable livestock are lost to snow leopard and wolf predation. One goat can equal a month’s income in this part of the world, so many herders harbor negative attitudes towards predators that can lead to persecution, and, sometimes, retaliatory killing/poaching. Donations raised by Snow Leopard Vodka helped us build 8 corrals for 29 families in the village of Chumathang to protect all small livestock in the village from predation.
9) Livestock Vaccinations in Pakistan
During summer 2015, over 86,000 livestock were vaccinated from 3,900 households in northern Pakistan. Our data show livestock mortality due to disease has dropped by more than 50% in villages participating in this livestock and ecosystem health program, providing communities with a buffer against livestock depredation by snow leopards.
10) Snow Leopard Collaring
Snow leopards have historically been one of the least studied of the big cats. In 2008, Snow Leopard Trust and out partners launched the first long-term study of snow leopards in Mongolia’s South Gobi. Since that time, we’ve been placing GPS collars on snow leopards to learn more about their behavior and habitat use. A male snow leopard named Aztai was the longest-studied wild snow leopard in history and the first cat to wear a GPS collar in this study. Stephen Sparrow was able to catch a glimpse of Aztai in the field. To date, the Snow Leopard Trust has been able to collar a total of 20 snow leopards– more than all other such studies put together.
We’re looking forward to the next decade in this fruitful partnership, and wish our friends at Snow Leopard Vodka a Happy Birthday. If you’d like to learn more about the brand and where it’s available, please read this blog article from 2015.
Press Release, April 14, 2016 – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia / Seattle, WA
Mongolia’s Parliament declares Tost a State Protected Area. The mountain range is home to a stable, breeding population of snow leopards.
The Great Ikh Hural, Mongolia’s parliament, has approved a proposal to turn the Tost Mountains, a prime snow leopard habitat in the country’s South Gobi province, into a Nature Reserve, one of four categories of State Protected Areas under Mongolian law. Under this designation, only traditional economic activities such as livestock grazing that aren’t harmful to nature will be allowed, while mining, construction, and hunting will be prohibited.
The Snow Leopard Trust would like to express its gratitude and appreciation to the Mongolian parliament, and in particular to Members of Parliament Erdenchimeg Luvsan and Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, who led a Parliamentary delegation with 5 fellow members who championed the proposal.
We would like to congratulate the local government at Gurvantes and the provincial government of South Gobi – and most of all Tost’s local communities, who have championed the idea of protecting this important snow leopard habitat for many years.
One of the largest protected habitats in the world
“This is a huge step forward for the protection of the endangered snow leopard in this part of its range”, says Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science & Conservation Director. “This Nature Reserve will be a bridge between two existing Protected Areas, the Great Gobi and the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. The resulting landscape will be one of the world’s largest continuous protected snow leopard habitats.”
Under Mongolian law, the government will now appoint a working group, consisting of members of several relevant government agencies and public sector partners, to work out the specifics of the new National Park, including its precise boundaries. The Government has 60 days to complete this task.
“Within the 8163 square kilometers that are being considered for the National Park, there are currently around 12 licenses for mining exploration, and 2 active mining sites”, says Bayarjargal Agvantseeren, the leader of Mongolia’s Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation and Director of SLT’s Mongolia Program.
As mining activities won’t be permitted within the park boundaries, the working group now has to come up with a solution for the land affected by mining licenses. The licenses can either be revoked, in which case the companies holding them would be compensated, or the licensed land be kept out of the National Park. To protect the ecological integrity of the area, it would be important to revoke licenses that fall inside the boundary.
Site of the most comprehensive snow leopard study to date
Tost is the site of the world’s most comprehensive long-term snow leopard research study, being conducted by the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation, Snow Leopard Trust, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences since 2008. The conservation organization Panthera was also a partner in the study until 2012.
In this study, scientists have so far tracked 20 snow leopards with GPS satellite collars, gaining unprecedented insights into the behavior and ecology of these cats, and monitoring wild snow leopard cubs in their dens for the first time ever.
Remote-sensor camera data collected over a span of five years has shown Tost’s snow leopard population to be stable and reproducing, with at least 12 adult cats using the area at any given time.
A win that was years in the making
Given the importance of this ecosystem both to the endangered snow leopard and the local pastoral community, the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation and local people began making efforts for its protection in 2008. In 2010, the community achieved a major breakthrough, as both the provincial and central governments agreed to give Tost and Tosonbumba the status of a Local Protected Area. This offered some level of protection from further expansions of mining in the area, but could not guarantee the ecosystem’s long-term future.
Our team recognized this early on, and began working with the local community and leadership toward achieving State Protected Area status in 2012. Now, 4 years, this collective effort has paid off, and Tost should remain a safe haven for snow leopards.
Great news after a tragedy
The good news comes on the heels of a tragedy of immense magnitude: In 2015, we lost our friend and colleague Lkhagvasumberel “Sumbee” Tomorsukh, who dedicated his life to studying and protecting snow leopards and other wildlife of Tost. An investigation into his death is ongoing.
“Sumbee lived for Tost and its snow leopards. If he were among us today, he’d be the happiest person on earth. The new Nature Reserve is a fitting tribute to this amazing young man”, says Bayarjargal Agvantseeren.
Snow Leopard Trust
Snow leopards are one of the most endangered big cats in the world. Founded in 1981, the Snow Leopard Trust is the largest and oldest organization devoted to protecting the endangered snow leopard. The Snow Leopard Trust has been active in Mongolia for over a decade conducting grassroots conservation, education and research. Snow Leopard Trust: www.snowleopard.org
Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation
Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation is the Snow Leopard Trust’s partner organization based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; working together on the conservation of the endangered snow leopard since 1998.
This major achievement, five years in the making, has benefited from the support of each and every donor. Such an enormous and sustained undertaking would not have been possible without YOU! Our biggest and heartiest thanks goes out to the over 2,000 Snow Leopard Trust donors and 100 zoo partners around the globe. Thank you! (please click here to see a complete list of $50+ donors and zoo partners in our 2014 Annual Report).
Thank you to the following for partnering with us to support Tost LPA and advocacy for Tost:
People’s Trust for Endangered Species
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Disney Conservation Fund
Partnership Funding by Fondation Segre, managed by Whitley Fund for Nature
S.L. Gimbel Advised Fund at The Community Foundation
Snow Leopard Network
Thank you to the following for partnering with us on special conservation and research projects important to Tost:
Acacia Conservation Fund
AZA Conservation Grants Fund (formerly Conservation Endowment Fund)
BBC Wildlife Fund
Bioparc Zoo de Doue la Fontaine
Cat Life Foundation
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Conservation Research & Education Opportunities International
Darwin Initiative through UK Government, via University of Aberdeen
David and Amy Cohn
Edrington Group & Edrington Americas
Elmyra Felburn Schiller Irrevocable Trust
International Fund for Animal Welfare
International Society for Endangered Cats
Keidanren Nature Conservation Foundation
Moore Family Foundation
Norcross Wildlife Foundation
Nysether Family Foundation
Parco Zoo Punta Verde
Regina Bauer Frankenberg Foundation
Rufford Small Grants Foundation
Safari Club International Foundation
Seattle International Foundation
Snow Leopard Trust UK
South Lakes Safari Zoo
Stephen Gold at the WCN Solar Power Project
Trust for Mutual Understanding
Utah’s Hogle Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo
Press release, Nordens Ark, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Snow Leopard Trust
The Pallas’s cat is a small cat species that lives in the mountains and grasslands of Central Asia, from Iran to China and Mongolia. It’s one of the least studied cats in the world and is currently listed as Near Threatened with a decreasing population by the IUCN red list of endangered species. A large international collaboration has now been initiated in order to make progress with the conservation of the species.
An important part of the initiative is to increase the knowledge of the species in the wild.
“Pallas’s cats are quite mysterious animals”, says Emma Nygren, a biologist at Swedish Zoo Nordens Ark who coordinates the project. “We need to increase the knowledge of the species in order to create a plan to save them.”
For this reason Nordens Ark, Snow Leopard Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) have formed the Pallas Cat International Conservation Alliance, PICA, with the purpose to increase our knowledge about the cat’s ecology and the threats its facing in the wild.
Through cooperation with scientists, rangers, field workers and various experts across range countries, this alliance will gather information in order to create effective conservation plans. The project has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Fondation Segré, based in Switzerland.
Nordens Ark and Snow Leopard Trust have been collaborating for several years on the long-term ecological study on snow leopards in the Tost Mountains in Mongolia. The new Pallas’ cat project is an expansion of this collaboration and will also include the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
“By using Snow Leopard Trust network and logistics support in Central Asia and Royal Zoological Society of Scotland expertise on Pallas cats we will maximize our efforts in a way that will benefit the conservation of both snow leopards and Pallas cats”, says Emma Nygren.