In parts of the snow leopard range, wildlife sometimes causes damage to local farmer’s standing crops before they can be harvested. In a pilot project, our team in India has deployed local guards in five villages to chase wildlife away and protect the crops. In four villages, this approach has reduced damages.
As we’ve recently mentioned here, abundant wild prey is essential for snow leopards. For farmers in the cat’s habitat, however, a growth in wild ungulate populations can spell trouble. In the past few years, locals of Spiti have seen a financial boom from the sale of green peas—a cash crop that is now commonly cultivated across Spiti valley during their annual agricultural cycle, in addition to barley which is the traditional crop. Blue sheep and ibex sometimes damage standing crops, especially green peas. Summer is when the problem reaches its peak.
Surveys have shown that this damage to crops helped create negative perceptions towards wildlife within many communities – which in turn is a big threat to the snow leopard!
Based on this learning, we have worked with local communities of five villages (Kibber, Chichim, Gete, Tashigang, Demul) to deploy local guards whose responsibility it is to ensure that wild ungulates do not enter the fields.
In October, after harvesting, our team went to check on the amount of damage reported from these villages. They were very happy to receive positive reports of reduction in losses from four of these villages.
One village reported a similar level of damage as in previous years, so the team and community will try to employ a more efficient mechanism to contain losses for next year.
Crop Damage Protection Guards were given a honorarium for a job well done.