Beyond Protected Areas
The high-altitude areas of the Central Asian Mountains contain a barren landscape that is inhospitable to even the most hardy plant life. With low precipitation rates and extreme temperatures, little vegetation is available for the snow leopard’s wild prey. This means the animals must continuously travel to find food to forage, and while they do tend to travel in herds, their numbers are very small.
When domestic animals begin to graze in these areas, wild prey populations are drastically reduced. The reduced number of ibex, markhor, blue sheep and argali that make up the main part of a snow leopard’s diet are then forced to travel even farther to find the food they need.
With the wildlife in Central Asia spread out across the vast landscape, it is evident that our conservation focus needs to encompass the full amount of space that these animals use. While creating small protected areas is important, we make every effort to go beyond this preliminary stage and conduct our conservation efforts at the landscape level.
To do this, we engage the people living in these regions to develop community conservation programs that encompass the landscape and help both human and wildlife alike.
For example, the Snow Leopard Trust partnered with village leaders and local government representatives in the Spiti Valley of India to discuss ‘Project Snow Leopard’ in 2011. Initiated by our team of scientists, ‘Project Snow Leopard’ is the first ever national survival strategy for snow leopards and it takes a landscape level approach that encompasses the Spiti Valley itself. This successful program actively encourages government officials and local leaders to think beyond small protected areas and protect the landscape.
India is a great example of a successful landscape level approach. We also apply this technique to specific regions in the other 4 countries where we work: