Encouraging Developments In Snow Leopard Conservation
As the year comes to an end, we’re proud to share some of the highlights of our work with you. From groundbreaking research to progress in community conservation and education, 2012 has been an encouraging year for snow leopards – thanks to your support!
- According to our monitoring, there has been no reported retaliatory killing or poaching of snow leopards in any of our program areas in 2012
- This summer, for the first time ever, we managed to track female cats to their den sites
- Snow leopard conservation is moving to the political forefront in Central Asia with the Global Snow Leopard Forum in Kyrgyzstan in 2013
Overall, thanks to your support, our field programs in the 5 most important snow leopard range countries and our activities at the global level are having a measurable benefit for snow leopards and their environment. So far, our 2012 monitoring shows that there has been no reported retaliatory killing or poaching of snow leopards in any of our program communities.
In Mongolia, the population of snow leopards in our long-term study site has remained stable over the past four years. And surveys in program sites in India indicate increasing wild prey populations and higher diversity and abundance of plant and bird species.
Education and community conservation
In June, 160 students and teachers from rural Himalayan schools attended our eco-camps in India, to learn about snow leopards and their fragile environment, developing positive values toward nature and wildlife. Learn more about these camps from India country program director Yash Veer Bhatnagar.
In Pakistan, we successfully worked together with over 1300 herders to vaccinate 16,000 livestock in a partnership that defines community conservation commitments. This program has been so successful that we’re expanding it into three new valleys.
As part of our pioneering long-term ecological study in Mongolia, we tracked two collared females to active den sites this spring – a first for snow leopard science.
Our team was able to collect vital data that will ultimately help us understand more about cub survival. In August, research cameras photographed both moms out and about with their growing (and playing!) cubs.
We also carried out intensive camera trappings in three national parks in Pakistan, covering more than 5000 km2 through 200 camera stations, and documented a diverse community of carnivores including the snow leopards.
Scientists estimate that more than half of the world’s remaining snow leopards live in China – and our new data supports this notion. A camera study in a small part of China’s Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve revealed an estimated 41 snow leopards – the highest density of cats recorded so far.
One of the scientists studying snow leopards in China, Li Juan, successfully defended at Peking University to become the first woman to complete a field ecology Ph.D. on snow leopards.
Political advocacy on the global and local stages
Thanks to an initiative by the World Bank, the Kyrgyz government and a coalition of NGOs including the Snow Leopard Trust, all 12 snow leopard range countries sent representatives to a very successful planning meeting for next year’s Global Snow Leopard Forum in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. This marked the first meeting ever held where delegations representing all snow leopard range countries convened. The main goal of next summer’s Forum will be the signing of a declaration by all range country Heads of Governments in a commitment to clear priorities for the protection of snow leopards.
Meanwhile, in Mongolia, our team successfully worked with with local community members and local government officials to gain approval at three of the six levels of government procedure necessary to declare 6500 sq km of snow leopard habitat surrounding our long-term study site in South Gobi a protected National Reserve. Rapid mining in southern Mongolia poses a great future challenge to snow leopards, and we are moving as fast as we can to elevate the conservation status of the area.
2013: Local projects and global challenges
In 2013, as we continue our important grassroots programs, we will also keep working at a global level. In the coming year, we’ll be partnering with WWF, US Agency for International Development (USAID), the President of Kyrgyzstan and members of the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative to advance research and conservation for snow leopards across their range.
At the Global Snow Leopard Forum in Bishkek, snow leopard conservation will be moving to the forefront of the political stage within Central Asia for the first time, and we are grateful that you have helped our country teams grow in capacity and prominence so they can take leadership roles in these efforts.
We’re looking forward to keeping you updated on our plans for 2013 as they take shape – and we wish you very happy holidays and all the best in the New Year!