Keeping Cats Out May Keep Them Safe
Working with herders, our team in Mongolia is studying how to best prevent predators like the snow leopard from attacking livestock – a key to a peaceful coexistence of cats and local communities. The first fences have already been built.
Livestock losses to predator attacks can be devastating to herder families in snow leopard habitat across Central Asia; and they remain a primary source of human-wildlife conflicts. Through interventions like our community-based livestock insurance and vaccination programs, we’ve found ways to help local herders better absorb the financial impact of livestock losses – and people’s attitudes towards the cats have improved as a consequence.
In order to foster an even stronger acceptance of snow leopards among local herders, we’re also working on preventing livestock losses from happening in the first place – by building predator-proof corrals.
Gustaf Samelius, the Trust’s Assistant Director of Science and Conservation, is in Mongolia’s South Gobi region, working with our local team and communities in Tost to figure out how to best do that. They’ve launched a pilot program, helping 10 families to build new fences around their nighttime corrals.
“Building fences seems like an obvious idea, and in many ways, it is. But we want to make sure we’re building the right type of fence at the lowest possible cost“, Gustaf says, “so we’re testing different techniques now.”
Dr. Jens Karlsson, an expert on preventing livestock losses from the Wildlife Damage Center in Sweden, joined our team in the South Gobi and shared his experiences at a kickoff meeting with local communities as well as authorities in Tost. “The herders were eager to participate in the study“, Gustaf says, “and the local governor expressed his support as well.”
Communities Make Decisions
It’s one of the principles of the Trust to always involve local communities into any decisions that need to be made as part of a community-based conservation program – and the selection of the ten families who were to participate in the pilot study was a case in point: “Our local team members, Chimgee and Sumbee, explained some of the criteria for a family to be a part of the study”, Gustaf says, “but then, the herders who were at the meeting selected the participants themselves. It was amazing to see that they even suggested some families that weren’t present themselves.”
The team spent another 5 days in Tost, building the first two fences at the camps of two herders, Daowa and Burun. “Building the fences was lots of fun”, Gustaf says. “The best part about it was hearing that Daowa and Burun were happy with the work and thought that the fences will help reducing livestock losses.”
TheSnow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation are very grateful to Dr. Jens Karlsson and the Wildlife Damage Center in Sweden for their help to make this a great study and for contributing with their extensive experience of using fences as mean of reducing livestock losses.