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A Crucial Partnership Gets Stronger

On May 29, 2014, the State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry (SAEPF) of Kyrgyz Republic, along with the Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Foundation in Kyrgyzstan signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the area of wildlife conservation, valid for 10 years.


“This MoU is a significant milestone as it will strengthen our relationship with the SAEPF and other state organizations and help us to reach our conservation goals”, says Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science and Conservation Director. “For instance, the strong partnership will help us launch our new pilot ‘Citizen Ranger Rewards Program’ aimed at helping park rangers and community members work together to end illegal poaching in key snow leopard areas.”

Identifying Key Snow Leopard Landscapes

Media advisory, June 4, 2014.

Range countries, experts meet in Kyrgyz Republic to identify key habitats to be protected for the endangered snow leopard.


The international effort to save the endangered snow leopard is moving along. Having adopted the landmark Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program in October 2013, the 12 countries that are home to this elusive big cat will gather for a workshop in the Kyrgyz Republic this June to carry the momentum forward.

a snow leopard roaming Kyrgyzstan's Sarychat-Ertash Nature Reserve

a snow leopard roaming Kyrgyzstan’s Sarychat-Ertash Nature Reserve

The Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) calls for at least 20 secure snow leopard landscapes to be protected by 2020 across the 12 countries. Identifying these landscapes and prioritizing measures to protect them is one of the main objectives of this workshop.

Another focus is on enhancing the capacity of the conservation experts and policy makers who will lead the implementation of this program to save the endangered snow leopard in their various countries. To this end, participants will also undergo training in Adaptive Leadership for Conservation, delivered by the World Bank Institute.

What:

Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP): National Focal Points Action Planning, Leadership and Capacity Development Workshop.

Who:

Hosted by the State Agency of Environmental Protection and Forestry of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic. Co-organized and cosponsored by the GSLEP Working Secretariat, Global Environment Facility, Global Tiger Initiative, INTERPOL, NABU, Snow Leopard Conservancy, Snow Leopard Trust, UNDP, USAID, World Bank, WCS and WWF.

When:

June 5 – 12, 2014

Where:

Kapriz Recreation Center, Baktuu-Dolonoty, lssyk Kul Region, Kyrgyz Republic

Why:

-          Identify 20 snow leopard landscapes to be secured by 2020

-          Enhance capacity of national and international practitioners and develop effective leadership teams to support the implementation of the GSLEP on national level

-          Define next steps: Agree on national and global priority activities and develop performance indicators to measure progress toward the goal.

Please use the hashtag #globalsnowleopard for reporting and getting updates about the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystems Protection Program

Contacts:

Kyrgyz Republic:
Koustubh Sharma, Deputy Program Officer, Working Secretariat of the GSLEP, koustubh@snowleopard.org,  +996-512-18-116
Andrew Zakharenka, Program Officer, Global Tiger Initiative, azakharenka@worldbank.org, +996-777-419-750

USA / Europe:
Andrew Oplas, Communications Officer, Global Tiger Initiative, roplas@worldbank.org, +1-202-458-1013
Matt Fiechter, Communications Officer, Snow Leopard Trust, matt@snowleopard.org, +1-206-632-2421

Dead Cat and Collar Found

Sad news from the South Gobi: Earlier this month, Mongolian field researcher Sumbee Tomorsukh discovered the carcass of a dead snow leopard. Next to the body, he found the missing GPS radio collar that Ariun, one of the male cats in our study, had been wearing.


Sumbee saw no obvious signs of foul play, and the collar, which was undamaged, had dropped off as programmed. The carcass was not in a condition where it could be identified. Sumbee took tissue and bone samples for possible DNA, but analyzing them might take a very long time. Until then, we unfortunately won’t know for sure if the dead cat is Ariun.

Collar had been missing since October

Ariun

Ariun

In 2013, some of our GPS collars we use to track snow leopards in the South Gobi had stopped sending location data to the satellite, so these cats, including Ariun, dropped off our radar (read more here).

However, their collars continued to emit radio signals that can be detected from a short distance with radio antennas. Our field teams kept listening for these signals in the areas of these cat’s last known locations, but didn’t find anything – until this month, when Sumbee finally heard a faint signal; far from where we had initially been looking.

Sumbee listening for a VHS signal from a collar

Sumbee listening for a VHS signal from a collar

He tracked it down to a ravine in the Tosonbumba mountains. There, he found Ariun’s missing collar, next to a snow leopard carcass.

“Unfortunately, the cat must have been dead for quite some time, and couldn’t be identified through visual cues”, Sumbee says.

The location is almost 20km from where Ariun’s collar had last transmitted its position in December 2013, so we know he must have worn it for several days after it stopped communicating.

Some Missing Cats Have Shown Up on Camera

In addition to Ariun’s collar, we’ve also stopped receiving location data last fall from the collars worn by Agnes, Ariunbeleg and Dagina, three female cats in our study. Two other cats, Aztai and Khashaa stopped communicating abruptly in the winter of 2012-2013.

Agnes

Agnes

Agnes, Ariunbeleg and Dagina have appeared on research camera photos from Tosonbumba this spring and autumn, still wearing their collars. We don’t know anything definitive about Ariun’s, Aztai’s and Khashaa’s whereabouts though.

We’ll keep looking for all these cats.

Reaching Out To Women

How Women Play a Special Role in Increasing Protection for Snow Leopards


a participant receives her husbandry certificate

a participant receives her husbandry training certificate

Last fall, we helped 11 women from Pakistan’s rural Chitral district attend a three-week certificate course in animal husbandry and livestock vaccination at one of the country’s leading universities.

In March, we held a workshop to help 16 women from two remote villages in northern India develop protocols for the first-ever pilot of our Snow Leopard Enterprises handicraft program in the Indian Himalayas.

From India to Pakistan, and Mongolia to Kyrgyzstan, we’re blazing new trails aimed at engaging more women in snow leopard conservation.

Women Tend to Have More Negative Attitudes Toward Snow Leopards

‘There is a global pattern,’ says Dr. Charu Mishra, Director of Science and Conservation, ‘that in communities living with carnivores, women tend to view the carnivores as more of a threat than men.’ Charu admits that the reasons for this are not entirely clear, but the pattern seems to make sense.

In most of the communities we work with, women run the family, take care of the children, and have important and complementary roles caring for livestock alongside men. It’s reasonable to assume that when livestock are lost, women feel it as a blow to family income and their ability to care for family well-being.

But we’re banking on the opposite being true as well: that by promoting snow leopard conservation among women we can foster peaceful co-existence between people and snow leopards overall. ‘If attitudes can change with women,’ Charu points out, ‘they pass that change on to their children and ultimately affect the whole family.”

In Pakistan, the women health workers are already becoming community leaders. They are working alongside men to treat animals for our livestock vaccination program, which inoculates animals and creates an economic buffer against snow leopard depredation. They are also creating small women’s circles aimed at raising greater appreciation for snow leopards among the community’s wider female population.

a workshop participant from Spiti

a workshop participant from Spiti

In India, the women who met in March to jumpstart their Snow Leopard Enterprises program have now moved on to train the women of their villages on new handicraft skills and patterns. This year we hope to place our first product orders with two women’s groups in India, and provide our first handicraft payments–a major step towards securing their support for snow leopard conservation.

Turning Women Into Conservation Leaders

‘Snow Leopard Enterprises and livestock vaccination are a great foundation,’ says Executive Director Brad Rutherford, ‘they help women and families feel economically secure so they can move forward with conservation.’ And this is just the beginning. Both Charu and Brad envision more training for men and women community leaders across important snow leopard landscapes to help them become even stronger advocates for the cats.

‘These women can speak out for snow leopards in a way that reaches deep into the community,’ adds Brad, ‘they know the challenges other women face and can help find solutions. That’s what we’re most excited about—the opportunity to make lasting and positive change.’

Pakistan training was funded by U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Ambassador’s Fund. Our range-country programs are being supported by a partnership award from Fondation Segré and the Whitley Fund for Nature.

USAID logo

Summer Snow Leopard Frenzy in India

The summer field season is a time when our India field team sheds their sub-zero coats, and busily makes the most of the warm weather.  Here’s a quick look at what they have planned for the short, but intense summer season!

Hosting 8 nature education camps

Nature education camps have become a tradition in communities where we work in the Indian Himalayas. This year once again, local school children will head to the hills and set up their tents.  They’ll spend 3 days engaged in hands-on activities that use their senses and incorporate art and theatre to build ecological understanding.

group of girls in a Nature Camp

A group of girls in Nature Camps

These children may have lived in the mountains their whole lives.  But they emerge with a deeper understanding of the place of each plant and animal – including snow leopards.

Last year, 324 children attended a total of 8 nature camp sessions across the Spiti Valley and the Ladakh region!   This year, our staff plans to put on another 8 camps—helping a new batch of children experience the wonder of camping, exploring, and learning.

Building predator-proof corrals

Keeping livestock safe from predators like the snow leopard is a major concern for local herders in the Indian Himalayas; and it’s a key to a peaceful coexistence of humans and wildlife. However, in many areas, existing corrals offer little protection and snow leopards and other predators can easily enter the enclosures. Sometimes snow leopards have been killed after preying on domestic goats in such corrals. But protecting the goats also protects the cats.

Building a corral in Kidmang

Building a corral in Kidmang

Last fall, we helped 29 families in 3 villages build corrals with strong walls and doors, and a wire covering to keep predators out. “We just heard from our field staff when they went back to the village of Skidmang,” reports Conservation Coordinator Radhika Timbadia. “In 2012 over 20 livestock were killed in winter, but this year only 2 died due to depredation, and they were very pleased.”

This summer, the team will go to 2 other villages, building or reinforcing corrals to help 30 more families. At the same time, they’ll build relationships with the herding families—creating a lasting trust that can support future conservation activities.

Counting cats in the Lingti Valley

The team also plans to count snow leopards in the Lingti Valley, Himachal Pradesh—an area where we have only recently begun working but where there are significant conflicts between snow leopards and herders.

The cats follow their prey down the mountain in the fall

a snow leopard roams the mountains of Spiti

This summer, our researchers hope to gauge the size of the snow leopard population with a motion-sensing camera survey. The terrain is difficult, with steep-walled cliffs down to the river, but the researchers are determined to make a go of it. They have also trained 7 youth from a nearby village to help—which not only advances the research, but helps the youth and the wider community understand snow leopards.

You can support these summer projects with a donation right now! Click here to make a gift. $35 will cover the cost of wire mesh for a corral. $50 sends a kid to eco-camp. $500 can buy a research camera to count Lingti’s cats. Any amount helps. Thank you!