A snow leopard attacked livestock over several nights in a remote community in the Himalaya, endangering its own life, causing fear and anger amongst people, and damaging their livelihood. Within weeks, the community members, their livestock, and the snow leopard, were safe as our field team helped the local community build seven predator-proof corrals under challenging conditions amidst a lockdown.
In the wake of the turmoil caused by COVID-19, conservationists around the world feared a spurt in hunting and illegal wildlife trade. In the middle of the global pandemic, our partner community foiled poaching attempts on their land, apprehended the suspects, and handed them over to law enforcement.
Your long-term investments are paying off. Even though travels and budgets were curtailed in 2020, our field teams and community partners across the range demonstrated how empowered they feel to take conservation action. The instances listed above are just two of numerous examples this year that showed the effectiveness and resilience of the Snow Leopard Trust family.
During this year of tragedy, lockdowns, and economic downturn, you continued to support snow leopards and keep this conservation community strong. More than 500 of you from 33 countries tested your endurance when I ran 100-miles over 24 hours to raise awareness for snow leopards. Nearly 1000 of you joined us virtually for our 24-hour global event celebrating snow leopards. Speaking of endurance, many of you stayed on for the entire 24 hours, raising critical support for snow leopards!
2020 wasn’t an easy year for anyone. We lost a village elder from a partner community to COVID-19. I had known him for 25 years. Some of our field staff were affected too, but all have recovered and are safe. Some of our objectives for the year couldn’t be met. We also had to put our plans to progress GPS collaring research temporarily on hold.
But aside from these setbacks, much work did take place, and our teams even initiated new conservation programs in 2020. Here are some examples:
Our teams signed and initiated conservation partnerships with four new communities in the Himalayas and the Karakoram.
- With our team’s support, our partners in the provincial government established a new protected area office with its team of rangers for Tost Nature Reserve, Mongolia.
- Our team created new agreements to convert two former hunting concessions into sanctuaries in the Kyrgyz Tien Shan.
- We conducted camera trapping of snow leopard populations in multiple countries and mountain ranges.
- Our teams delivered remote ‘nature in our backyard’ education programs to children living in snow leopard habitats.
- Over 200,000 livestock were vaccinated against diseases as part of our snow leopard friendly livestock vaccination program.
- Our team published a new newsletter for community champions and distributed it to build conservation awareness and connection during the pandemic.
- In our contribution to scientific knowledge and conservation capacity, our team published an impressive 18 papers this year in international science journals, completed three policy documents, and delivered training programs to more than 100 conservationists around the world using online platforms.
And the list goes on.
This year tested us as an organization, but thanks to you, protection for snow leopards never wavered. Our staff and partner network showed remarkable resilience, adaptation, and innovation. It’s a privilege for me to work with this exceptional group of conservationists, and to have your support.
As we close the year, I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please stay safe and healthy. I wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday season and look forward to 2021, as the Snow Leopard Trust enters its 40th year of incorporation.
Executive Director, Snow Leopard Trust