The Great Research Camera Expedition

Relive our Indian team’s epic research camera study in Spiti valley.

Led by the Snow Leopard Trust’s own Senior Regional Ecologist, Koustubh Sharma, 20 people braced the extreme cold to cover an area of more than 1500 square kilometers with remote-sensor research cameras in an effort to monitor the area’s snow leopard population.

This is their story, as told in tweets by our friends at Project Snow Leopard India.

“It’s a huge plus that the program helps both animals and humans”

Snow Leopard Enterprises, our handicraft-and-conservation program that benefits cats and communities, has been a success story; generating almost $1 million in total sales, providing dozens of herder communities with a sustainable income and protecting hundreds of snow leopards in the program areas.


Carol Wolfson on the inside cover of her first book

Of course, the herders who make the products and agree to protect snow leopards deserve most of the credit. But Snow Leopard Enterprises could not have succeeded either without the support of passionate people who believed in this idea and helped it grow.

One such supporter is Carol Wolfson, an American-born, Asia-based businesswoman, author and philanthropist. She came to SLE and snow leopard conservation as a customer and donor, but when she founded an animal welfare and rescue charity, Second Chance Animal Aid, in Shanghai, she also began reselling SLE products at her own fundraising events.

Today, Carol is both a customer and a donor – and the perfect person to share her insights on Snow Leopard Enterprises with us.

Carol, how did you get involved with snow leopard conservation?

I believe it must have been about 1991 as I was working in Hong Kong with a New York diamond company as their marketing director – and although I love diamonds, I didn’t find it very fulfilling for the soul. I volunteered and joined the local fundraising board of an international conservation organization. I learned about snow leopards through this work and was immediately enthralled. After some more research I found the Snow Leopard Trust, and I started donating yearly. As soon as they started to sell Snow Leopard Enterprises products, I began to purchase. In 2005, I stared my own charity in Shanghai, SCAA, committed to protecting and improving the health and welfare of companion animals. I attended all kinds of sales events and fundraisers; and along with my own fundraising, I also raised awareness for snow leopards and eventually started selling SLE products whenever possible.

I also have various contacts in retail stores/spas throughout Asia that often agree to put SLE products in their stores. I buy them first – along with a donation usually – then put them on commission in stores. The stores make a small profit, and I use the funds I generate either to buy more products and/or increase the donations to the Snow Leopard Trust each year.

What are some of your bestsellers and personal favorites among the SLE products?

pharo snow leopard one

Carol’s cat, Pharo, with his Snow Leopard Enterprises goodies

Bestsellers have always been the adult slippers, hats, hot pads, snow leopard ornaments and baby products such as booties/bibs/onesies. My personal favorites are the snow leopard finger puppet, the slippers, the large hot pads and the napkins. I also love the rugs! Pets go crazy over them which is why I’ve begged Gina, the SLE sales and marketing manager, to create actual pet pads for years now. I’ve often sold the larger hot pads to people for their pets to lie on. But now, as I’ve just found out, my lobbying appears to have been successful and there are pet mats available from SLE!

What has your customer’s feedback been like?

Always fantastic… everyone I know always prefers to buy gifts that have meaning. It’s excellent how the SLE products are labeled, as it’s a way of telling the gift recipient that they are not only getting a fabulous gift, but the sale of it in turn is helping an extremely worthwhile organization. Everyone adores their slippers, baby gifts, the hot pads, etc. Always well received and appreciated.


Embroidered napkins are among Carol’s favorites!

Colorful rugs, for people and pets

Colorful rugs, for people and pets

What about your own feedback as a customer and donor?

Excellent! I’ve been living/working in Asia for over three decades so I know what sells in Asia, mostly to expats. The Snow Leopard Trust is great at providing point of sales tools and materials which is essential to providing positive incentives for people to buy these products over other retail gift products, etc. It’s utterly important to be able to show that buying SLE products makes a difference and that the products are not only useful and aesthetic, but are providing funds for amazing conservation projects. Having the postcards and labels on each product is extremely effective. I’ve also found that having someone available to explain and push the products at the retail location helps a great deal.

What makes you personally want to support this particular program and organization?

I have been involved with literally hundreds of organizations and fundraising projects over the years, and what makes me continue to support some and completely drop others is their effectiveness in terms of reaching goals, making a substantive difference, the rate of project investments vs. administrative costs, the dedication and commitment of the people involved and indeed, human interaction with me directly. Knowing that I am appreciated and that I am helping make a difference is important, too…I know from my own organization that those little thank you notes go a looong way in keeping donors loyal and involved. That little yearly gift of a magnet or a few greeting cards is so easy to do – but so many organizations take your money and you get a generic thank you or no thank you at all.

I think that it doesn’t take much to keep people donating but the more appreciation you’re shown, the more loyal you are as a donor. The Snow Leopard Trust is such an amazing organization and does such good work. For SLE specifically, it’s a huge plus that the program helps both animals and humans! Some people love animals and others love the way the program benefits humans, so one can direct the appeal for funds accordingly to donor preferences… And of course, who can resist a snow leopard?!!


Carol’s wish has come true – with brand-new pet mats!

What’s your dream for the future of the snow leopard?

I’d like to see sustainable growth of populations of the cats and all the other animals in their ecosystem, more protection of their habitat and a complete stop of trade in their pelts.

What products would you like to see added to the SLE collection?

Now that the pet mats are here, I would love to see a felted computer or tablet cover. Many people have asked me about it, and I think it would be a great product to sell, and fairly easy to make as well. It could be very simple, or intricately designed.

Meet the Women of Uch Koshkon

Snow Leopard Enterprises is more than a conservation program – it’s the story of remarkable women taking their future into their own hands, empowering their families and communities and blazing a trail towards a sustainable future for people and wildlife. Meet some of the Snow Leopard Enterprises participants from the Kyrgyz village of Uch Koshkon.

A mother of four, Mrs. Kurmanalieva Jyparkul works as an educator at the local school. 10 years ago, she joined Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE), the award-winning conservation program that sells empowers communities in Central Asia to help protect wildlife.

Mrs. Kurmanalieva and the booties she makes for SLE

Mrs. Kurmanalieva and the booties she makes for SLE

Participants earn extra income by selling handicrafts, and in exchange, they pledge to protect the endangered snow leopard and its prey in their area. Mrs. Kurmanalieva uses the money she makes through SLE to buy medication for her sick husband, a former ranger at nearby Sarychat Ertash nature reserve.

After undergoing training courses, she has mainly been producing donkey booties for babies – available for sale in our web shop. However, she has also used her newly acquired skills in felting, weaving and embroidery to make various items for herself and her family: booties, gloves, hats and chair mats with snow leopard paw prints.

While the Kurmanalievs can certainly use the income they make through SLE, the conservation spirit runs deep in this family as well.

The eldest son, Toktosunov Urmat, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a ranger. Recently, he was recognized for apprehending a group of poachers in the reserve with the first-ever Citizen Ranger Wildlife Protection Award, part of a new program to better reward ranger’s efforts.

Abdyldaeva Chynar shows the fruits of her labor

Abdyldaeva Chynar shows the fruits of her labor

After work, Urmat likes to help his mother make products for SLE. His younger sisters usually join them. One daughter, a 7th grader, has even learned needle-felting, making beautiful eyeglass cases that she sometimes gives as gifts to foreigners that visit their village.

Much like Mrs. Kurmanalieva and her family, Abdyldaeva Chynar appreciates both the financial and the conservation benefits of SLE. Working as a babysitter at the local boarding school, she’s supporting a family of eight – but the income from her job barely covers their expenses.

In SLE, she saw a chance to improve her situation by doing something she enjoys – making handicrafts – while also helping the endangered snow leopard, an animal she’s loved since she was a small girl.

With her husband’s help, Mrs. Abdyldaeva makes bootiesbeautiful felted camels, colorful glasses cases and embroidered square mats – and she’s eager to learn how to make additional products in the future.

camel donkey-booties_LRG glassescase“SLE is a great help to my family and many others in our village”, she says. “There are many unemployed women with children here, and thanks to this program, they can make an income and still take care of their kids.

Mrs. Kudashova Turum’s six children have all grown up long ago – and yet, she is still taking care of them. The eldest villager in Uch Koshkon, the widowed Mrs. Kudashova makes rugs and chair pads for Snow Leopard Enterprises, using the money she earns to support her children and their families.

As a member of the local SLE conservation fund, she remains very involved in community matters – a source of pride for this active pensioner!

The Participants are Writing the Story

Snow Leopard Enterprise has been an incredible success in Uch Koshkon and beyond. It has generated almost $1 million in total sales, and helps protect habitats that could be home to hundreds of snow leopards.

We often talk about Snow Leopard Enterprises as our program, and we underline the importance of your support in making it work so amazingly well.

At its heart, however, this million-dollar conservation success story is being written the women of Uch Koshkon and more than 40 similar communities in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan. We’re just gratefully retelling the tale these conservation champions are spinning!


If you’d like to support these women and many more, please have a look at some of the amazing products they make in our shop!


Your Purchase Saves Snow Leopards!

Shopping for handicrafts by Snow Leopard Enterprises helps protect these cats in more than a quarter of Mongolia’s snow leopard habitat.

Proceeds from the sale of Snow Leopard Enterprises handicrafts go to herder families in snow leopard habitat who produce them – and in return, these families agree to protect the endangered cat in their area.

In Mongolia, where the program first started, 27 communities are participating today.

A map of Mongolia's snow leopard habitat and SLE areas

A map of Mongolia’s snow leopard habitat (red) and SLE areas (blue) – click to enlarge.

Mongolia has almost 100,000 square kilometers of confirmed snow leopard habitat. Another 240,000 square kilometers have the potential to be a home for the cats.

Through our conservation agreements with the 27 Snow Leopard Enterprises communities in Mongolia, we are able to protect more than 25,000 square kilometers – or 27% – of the country’s definitive snow leopard habitat. Your purchases of Snow Leopard Enterprises products make this possible!

Peer Pressure

The income from Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE) eases the economic pressures faced by many communities in snow leopard habitat – which can make a huge difference in how a herder reacts to livestock predation. Many herders completely rely on their livestock to earn their livelihood. SLE offers an alternative.

“Thanks to the income they earn through SLE, a family may no longer feel the need to retaliate if a snow leopard kills one of their animals”, Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science and Conservation Director, explains.


Click here to shop Snow Leopard Enterprises products now! All proceeds go to conservation!


The program’s built-in financial incentives ensure that the effect is felt beyond the individual participant families though:

Colorful baby booties are among our best-selling SLE products

Colorful baby booties are among our best-selling SLE products

Usually, more than one family in a community participates in SLE. “Together, each SLE community signs a collective conservation agreement, which promises them all an annual bonus if no poaching of snow leopards occurs in their area. However, if a snow leopard is hurt, the entire community loses their bonus”, Charu says.

This mechanism creates positive peer-pressure:

In 2009, when one of our radio-collared snow leopards was trapped and killed by a herder, the community was upset. The herder happened to belong to a community involved in Snow Leopard Enterprises – and the entire community lost their bonus because of his action.

The SLE participants insisted to the local governor that in addition to the herder being made to face the legal consequences of his action, he must be made to pay the bonus SLE amount that the community had lost due to his violation of the conservation contract.

A Starting Point for A Deeper Commitment

Dagina's cub

A wild snow leopard cub in Tost

For many communities in snow leopard habitat, Snow Leopard Enterprises is the starting point in a conservation partnership – a partnership that seeks to establish a basis for peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife.

“Communities often lack alternative sources of income beyond what their livestock provides”, explains Charu Mishra. “Snow Leopard Enterprises helps to address this issue, which creates a lot of goodwill among participating families. Often, it’s the beginning of a relationship of mutual trust.”

These relationships can open the door for many other conservation initiatives, as an example from Mongolia shows.

In Tost, a region in the South Gobi, Snow Leopard Enterprises participants were instrumental in establishing a Local Protected Area for wildlife, officially recognized by the authorities as a protected habitat for snow leopards and their prey.

“A few years back, we found out that this area, where we had been studying snow leopards for years, was covered almost entirely with mining licenses. Mining companies were getting ready to dig up mountain ranges that we knew for a fact were home to snow leopards”, Charu recalls.

“We had been running community-conservation programs there for years, and poaching wasn’t a major threat in this area any longer. However, the problem of mining had crept in almost unnoticed.

Our team immediately began lobbying with the different levels of government. Local communities too were opposed to the idea of losing their grazing land to mining. Through our existing SLE program in the region, we were able to quickly form an alliance against the external threat posed by mining, both to the local way of life as well as the area’s biodiversity.

Finally, this problem turned into a small opportunity when the government agreed to the proposal of declaring this area as the 6500 sq. km. Tost Local Protected Area, which, at least on paper, creates a large, connected landscape of wildlife reserves, with the Great Gobi National Park on the west, and the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park contiguous to the north. It is a step in the right direction, though much more needs to be done.

Critical to Conservation Success

felted snow leopards, a symbol of the SLE communities' commitment to the cats

felted snow leopards, a symbol of the SLE communities’ commitment to the cats

“Snow Leopard Enterprises has been critical to our successful partnerships with communities in the cats’ habitat”, Snow Leopard Trust Executive Director Brad Rutherford says. “The slippers, cat toys, rugs and napkins that were bought by thousands of our supporters have directly helped protect these endangered cats, and continue to do so.”

“Please keep looking at Snow Leopard Enterprises when you’re shopping for gifts, Charu Mishra adds. “It’s your support that keeps this crucial program going!”

Get your Snow Leopard Enterprises gifts here and help save cats!

Snow Leopard Photobomb!

Well, this may just be a first of its kind – a snow leopard photobombing a staff selfie.

Country Program Leader, Kubanych (Kuban) Zhumabai uulu managed to snap a quick “selfie” in the field AND catch a snow leopard photobombing in the background. It goes to show you that a “rock” is not always a rock.