Big Cat Film Festival Award for Snow Leopard Trust Documentary

A documentary about the Snow Leopard Trust’s community-managed livestock insurance program was selected as the best film about "People & Big Cats" at the International Big Cats Film Festival, held to celebrate World Wildlife Day.

A gorgeously filmed and captivatingly narrated 10-minute documentary about the Snow Leopard Trust’s livestock insurance program in Ladakh resulted in an award; winning best film in the “People & Big Cat’s category at the International Big Cats Film Festival.

Watch the award-winning documentary

The film aims to help us better understand the impact of this community-managed conservation initiative on both local herders and snow leopards. It takes us on a journey to Ladakh through the eyes of Tashi, a goat farmer participating in the program. With the Snow Leopard Trust’s help, Tashi and his community insure their precious livestock against predation by snow leopards and wolves and, in return, they actively protect their local wildlife, and even set aside grazing land for the snow leopard’s prey species to feed on.

The award-winning film and its production team were honored during a globally broadcast celebration of World Wildlife Day at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on March 2nd.

It’s official! Gayle Podrabsky’s Livestock Insurance documentary is a winner! Photo: Jennifer Snell Rullman, SLT

The Livestock Insurance documentary was produced by Fidget Films, LLCPontecorvo Productions and the Snow Leopard Trust. Filmmakers Gayle Podrabsky (a member of the Snow Leopard Trust’s board of directors) and Joe Pontecorvo traveled to Ladakh, India, to document the work done in local herding communities by the Trust and its local partner, NCF India. To tell this extraordinary story, Gayle and Joe visited with community members, field staff, and scientists – and captured the challenges of village life and the stunning beauty of Ladakh’s landscapes and wildlife on film.

A wild snow leopard catches the afternoon’s last rays of sun in Ladakh, India. Photo: Karma Sonam, NCF India

“Creating this film was truly a team effort”, Gayle says. I feel particularly grateful to Joe and Nimanda Pontecorvo for their amazing talents and dedication to this work. Joe is an outstanding cinematographer and editor who shaped this story in a way that made the viewer feel a part of the landscape and people.”

“I also want to thank our narrator Kayla Black and animation artist Lucy Wordsworth as well as the Snow Leopard Trust staff who helped make this film happen: the local team who helped with logistics in India – in particular Karma Sonar and Stanzin Namgail – and Jennifer Snell Rullman and Matthias Fiechter, who helped write and edit the story. But above all, I owe thanks to all the Snow Leopard Trust supporters who believed in the project.

In 2017, a shorter edit of the documentary won a People’s Choice award in TechSoup’s Storymakers film contest. Now, the longer cut has received an even more prestigious recognition: a panel of judges selected it as the winner in the “People and Big Cats” category at the International Big Cats Film Festival.

The festival was organized by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival this year to mark World Wildlife Day.

Over 200 entries were submitted for the international competition. 60 preliminary judges reviewed the submissions and determined the 16 finalists (view trailers here – they’re all amazing). The short list then was passed on to the final judging panel, which selected winners in six categories from among the 16 finalists.

The Big Cat Film Festival brought together a wealth of talent, united for one cause: raising awareness for the plight of the world’s big cats. Photo: Jennifer Snell Rullman, SLT

“These films connect us in a very personal way to wildlife. They inspire us all to make sure these most magnificent creatures survive in the wild. Congratulations to all of the finalists and category winners, and thank you for making this such a memorable World Wildlife Day. By using the power of media we can catalyze a groundswell of support for big cats to help make sure they survive in the wild “, said John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary General, in a press release.

“We certainly did not expect to win this competition, given that we were up against some beautifully filmed and narrated high-end productions such as “Tribe versus Pride”, “Broken Tail” and “Big Cats: Episode 3”. But the success of our short story demonstrates the power of this innovative Livestock Insurance Program to make change in snow leopard conservation.  It’s doing its job – and we are thankful that our film managed to show that”, Gayle Podrabsky says.

The eerily beautiful landscapes of Ladakh provide a spectacular backdrop for an inspiring conservation story. Photo: SLT

“It’s an honor to be even a small part of getting this story out to the public”, cinematographer Joe Pontecorvo says. “This kind of global recognition is an indication of just how vital the work

7 Comments

  1. I congratulate Snow Leopard Trust on this well-deserved award. The conservation of species, including the fabulous snow leopard, is now taking a new path in which the protection of species is part of a more global whole involving local populations and ultimately those who can be the best defenders of the snow leopard. It is positive, progressive and a absolut necessity.

    Thanks also for letting me discover the other trailers, all these films seem interesting and instructive because they show the growing vulnerability of all big cats on the planet.

  2. Congratulations, Snow Leopard Trust, on your documentary film award! Our elementary school’s mascot is the Snow Leopard and my students love to learn about them. Thank you for your work with the conservation of this big cat and the livestock insurance project. Keep up the great work!

  3. Nicely shot I thought, and the message about a path to the conservation of the snow leopard is excellent. This film and the implemented program it reports should be a source of pride to all the people who work with and support the Snow Leopard Trust.

  4. I am very grateful to the Snow Leopard Trust for saving the snow leopards by helping the local people. I noticed the large fire Tashi was using to cook with- have you ever looked into wood-conserving stoves? These are simple devices using metal or clay cylinders to concentrate the flames under the cooking pot, thus using less fuel and conserving scarce resources (and reducing the time spent on collecting fuel!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9Egu6c4zls
    Just another way to help these folks, who are cooperating to save the snow leopards inspite of their own very struggles.

  5. I am pleased that the Snow Leopard Trust has been taking strong initiatives to help preserve the presence of the snow leopard in its native habitat, while also understanding and attending to the needs of the local people. It sets a good example for others to follow in dealing with a whole range of endangered animals and the usually poor populations who live along side of them. I purchase handicrafts made by the local women of the area, which increases villagers’ incomes and lessens the threat of retaliation. These quality products are available to anyone through the Trust’s website.

  6. merci de tout coeur à cette association snow leopard pour aider à sauvegarder ce bel animal un grand MERCI

  7. Well done! Heart-felt thanks and appreciation to all the folks working to save the beautiful ghost of the mountains. <3

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