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.

Healthy Dogs, Healthy Cats

Free-ranging dogs kill more livestock in India’s Spiti region than snow leopards and wolves. Now, conservationists and local communities are teaming up to contain the canines and protect local wildlife and livelihoods.

A village in Kibber, a community high above Spiti valley.

A village in Kibber, a community high above Spiti valley.

In India’s Spiti region, an unlikely threat to wildlife has emerged over the last couple of years: free-ranging dogs. Kaza, Spiti’s capital, only has 300 households – but as many as 250 free-ranging dogs. They roam free, without proper homes, care and attention. These dogs have not been vaccinated nor sterilized, and have been left to scavenge and hunt for food.

During the tourist season, when garbage piles up around the village, the dogs easily find enough food, but once the tourists are gone, they often turn to hunting livestock and wild rodents and even wild ungulates. In fact, studies have shown that these canines killed more livestock in some areas than snow leopards and wolves.

The dogs are causing damage to local communities and wildlife; competing with snow leopards and other carnivores for wild prey and even attacking the cats sometimes. Such is the scale of damage that several villagers adjacent to Kaza have stopped keeping small-bodied livestock (sheep and goat) due to the damage they incurred from these dogs. There are also concerns that they could facilitate the transmission of diseases such as rabies and canine distemper.

Community leaders have been trying to address the issue for years, but lacked the necessary resources and coordination. Now, thanks to the generous support of the Leonard X Bosack and Bette M Kruger Charitable Foundation, we’ve been able to team up with local people and administration and begin a concerted effort to contain the fast-growing free-ranging dog population.

First Camp Revealed Need for Training

Vets and the newly trained parapets, operating on feral dogs

Vets and the newly trained parapets, operating on feral dogs

In the fall of 2013, a first “animal birth control camp” was held in Kaza; a collective effort by the local community, the Animal Husbandry and Forest Departments of the State of Himachal Pradesh as well as local NGOs and animal welfare institutions.

In this first drive, our team sterilized 102 dogs (73 male and 29 female) and vaccinated over 175 dogs for rabies.

The community supported this drive by ensuring that every household takes responsibility for ensuring at least one dog is operated and taken care of, for some days after the operation. They even divided the responsibility of ensuring that the 15-20 person strong team was well fed and taken care of.

One of the key challenges faced during this initial camp was the lack of skilled resources, especially paravets who could assist veterinarians in their work.

This spring, to respond to the need for skilled paravets, our team and the HP Animal Husbandry Department organized a two-day workshop where 15 local youth were trained to do this work.

These newly trained paravets were then quickly baptized by fire, assisting in a second round of animal birth control camps for free-ranging dogs in May. Held in four towns across Spiti, these new camps were yet another multi-stakeholder effort, led by the local Panchayats (self-governing council) and supported by the local administration including the Animal Husbandry Department, the Forest Department and locally active NGOs like the Kaza Welfare Society and the Nature Conservation Foundation. The effort was supported by two NGOs working extensively in the field of animal welfare – Dharamshala Animal Rescue, and Tibet’s Charity who provided veterinary support and ensured humane treatment of dogs operated at the camp.

feral dog 2Overall, we have now reached out to 7 towns within Spiti, sterilized 211 dogs and vaccinated over 300 dogs for rabies. We estimate that we might have sterilized close to a third of the dog population in Spiti valley.

A Successful Effort, But Challenges Remain

While we have been able to sterilize close to 30% of the total estimated dog population, the proportion of dogs sterilized in the hub of dog breeding, the ‘source population’ of Kaza, is over 60%. Given the initial challenges of remoteness of this region, lack of local capacity, and the need for bringing together multiple stakeholders, this effort has succeeded at putting in place an independent mechanism that can sustain this effort. However, controlling the dog population will be a challenge that will require for the initiative to continue over several years, while aiming to target a sizeable proportion of the population, each year. We’ve also begun to work with community leaders on improving garbage management, which probably is at the root of this problem.


The entire program for this year was co-financed by the Panchayat, the Himachal Pradesh (HP) Forest Department, the HP Animal Husbandry Department and the Leonard X Bosack and Bette M Kruger Charitable Foundation.

From Pennies for Wool to $1 Million for Snow Leopards

Pioneering handicraft-for-conservation program Snow Leopard Enterprises is close to reaching the milestone of $1 million in total sales in 10 years- and you can help get us there by shopping now!

Many of you are familiar with Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE), our flagship community-based conservation program that helps snow leopards as well as the people who share the big cat’s habitat.

Participants felting

SLE participants working with their wool

It’s remarkably simple: We buy beautiful wool handicrafts from herder communities and market them internationally. In return, herders sign contracts designed to protect the snow leopard and other wildlife.

Many herders in rural areas of Mongolia, where SLE began in 1999, have to sell their raw sheep, goat, and camel wool for pennies per pound.

But when they join SLE herders are able to earn hundreds of dollars each year from producing handicrafts. That’s a significant sum in areas where people typically live on less than a dollar a day!

This income is a tremendous incentive for herders to protect snow leopards.


Thanks to all of you who have been buying these handicrafts we are very close to reaching $1 million US in sales for this unique program.

You can help us reach the $1 million mark in the next few weeks by purchasing our beautiful handmade products in our online shop


A financially self-sustaining program

“One of the amazing things about SLE is that the more products are sold the more cats are protected,” says Brad Rutherford, Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust.

Colorful baby booties are among our best-selling products

Colorful baby booties are among our best-selling products

Not only does the program have a direct linkage to conservation, but it’s also highly cost-effective”, Brad adds. “The beauty of the program is that in addition to helping herders and snow leopards, it also helps cover the costs to ship, market, and distribute the products.

Remarkable growth

When the first herders—about 50 women from Uvs and Gobi-Altay provinces in Mongolia —joined SLE, they quickly found that they could rely on regular income from their handicrafts, and were more able to tolerate livestock losses from snow leopards and wolves. 

From this handful of participants in Mongolia, SLE has grown to 250 active members in three countries, now including Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. (We are also developing a pilot SLE program to begin soon in northern India.)

Over the past 10 years, the program has also grown in effectiveness. At first, sizing was inconsistent and some of our initial products were less popular with shoppers in the U.S. Over time though—and with the help of local handicraft trainers and international designers and marketers—we have been able to refine and expand our products, and sales have really grown – close to $1 million!

Tremendous impact on the cats

A million in sales is a nice achievement, but it only really matters if it helps snow leopards. We can confidently say that it does!

one of up to 250 snow leopards SLE is protecting in Mongolia

one of the snow leopards SLE is protecting in Mongolia

In Mongolia, where SLE has the largest reach with 27 participating communities covering over 25,000 square kilometers, researchers estimate that a quarter of the country’s snow leopard habitat could now be protected through SLE.

YOU can help us reach the Million!

A big thank you to all for your past support of SLE! Please help us hit the $1 million mark by taking a look at our shop to see the exciting products we have available – and be on the lookout for great deals on Facebook and in our emails (sign up here if you haven’t already!)

mice  napkins ornaments  yarn

With your continued support, we can continue to grow this successful program to help more herders and protect more cats.

Snow Leopard Enterprises Expands Into India

The handicraft-for-conservation program Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE) has been a success in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan, generating a total of close to $1 million in sales to date. And still, there is room for growth.

Our team in India is busy bringing this venture to their country as well – with pilots underway in the villages of Kibber and Chichim in Spiti.

Like in the other program countries, SLE India’s main aim is to offset losses due to wildlife damage with the income generated through the sale of these handicrafts; and to improve people’s attitudes to wildlife and conservation efforts. SLE is a program specifically aimed at women, as research has shown them to be more skeptical of snow leopards and other predators than the men.

Access to alternative sources of income such as the sale of handicraft can change a community's attitude towards snow leopards

Access to alternative sources of income such as the sale of handicraft can change a community’s attitude towards snow leopards

Last November, an initial skill development workshop took place in Spiti, followed by a “training of trainers” workshop held in the South Indian city of Mysore, where our partner organization NCF India is headquartered. 17 women made the day-long trip from the Northern edge of India to Mysore – the first trip outside of their home region for many of them.

Colorful baby booties are among our best-selling SLE products

Colorful baby booties are among our best-selling SLE products

This summer, most of them took part in another, crocheting-focused workshop – albeit much closer to home, in Kibber. For pastoralists, this is the most labor-intense season of the year – and yet, a total of 49 women from the two pilot villages took time out of their busy schedules to come to Kibber  and attend this workshop. The main goal this time was to improve the skills of the women and the quality of the products they were making. In Novemberanother, even bigger workshop is planned – and the India team hopes to get the first products from Kibber and Chichim to market in 2015.

While you wait for the Indian products to be available, you can browse our beautiful selection of SLE products from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Pakistan in our shop and help us reach the milestone of $1 million in sales!


A Million Bucks to Save Snow Leopards

The Snow Leopard Trust’s pioneering handicraft-for-conservation program Snow Leopard Enterprises is about to hit $1 million in sales.

Snow Leopard Enterprises is remarkably simple – and yet unique in the world of conservation: We buy beautiful wool handicrafts from herder communities and market them internationally, to customers like you. In return, herders sign contracts designed to protect the snow leopard and other wildlife.

Since 2004, this program has generated almost $1 million in sales – money that has flown straight into snow leopard communities, helping these endangered cats and the people who live with them.

Here’s how close we are:

Shop now for some of these amazing products and help us reach this milestone. Who knows, you might even end up being the customer that helps us over the hump!

All Snow Leopard Enterprises products feature this yellow cat icon in our shop, so you know exactly which items will count towards the icon

slippers  feltedcat

colorful Kyrgyz slippers                                                      unique, handmade felt snow leopards

napkins  mice

embroidered napkins from Pakistan                                  Felt toy mice for cats

ornaments  booties

Felted animal ornaments from Mongolia                          Cute donkey booties for babies

yarn  glasses-case

Mongolian camel wool yarn                                               Felted glasses and phone cases

and much much more!