Mending Corrals and Building Relationships

When snow leopards and other predators manage to enter herder’s corrals, the results can be devastating – but with teamwork, building supplies, and a couple of days’ time, the problem can be fixed, and conflicts avoided.

The endangered snow leopard is both a source of pride and occasional trouble for the people of Spiti, a remote, barren, and starkly beautiful valley nestled among the icy Himalayan peaks of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

India's Spiti valley is quintessential, postcard-style snow leopard country.
India’s Spiti valley is quintessential, postcard-style snow leopard country.

In the small Spitian village of Rama, the 11 resident families recently experienced the negative side effects of having the iconic Ghost Cat for a neighbor, as a snow leopard entered one of their corrals at night through an unsecured window and killed multiple livestock.

Our local team, upon hearing the news, set off for Rama to take stock of the damage, and work with the community on solutions. They immediately saw that a cat had indeed gotten into a corral and caused severe damage – and they also saw that several other corrals in the village were susceptible to similar incidents.

Canvas and branches can't keep a curious snow leopard out...
Canvas and branches can’t keep a curious snow leopard out…

As in most of Himalayan India, corrals in Spiti are usually on the ground floor of family’s houses, and while their walls made of solid stone, windows and doors are often vulnerable. Our team sat down with the local families to discuss what had happened, and offered their help in reinforcing the corral windows with metallic grills and making them predator-proof.

... but solid metal grates can!
… but solid metal grates can!

The community agreed to chip in what they could to purchase the necessary building materials, and our team promised to provide the rest.

Soon after, peaceful Rama’s silence was shattered by the sound of hammers, saws, and laughter, as the villagers and our staff members jointly set to work – fixing the unsecured corral windows, but also sharing stories and building friendships in the process.

Problem solved? For Rama perhaps, but more villages across the snow leopard range need similar reinforcements.
Problem solved? For Rama perhaps, but more villages across the snow leopard range need similar reinforcements.

From the villagers, our team heard that people in other surrounding hamlets had recently seen snow leopards sneak around close by as well“With the new grills on these windows it is unlikely that any more carnivores will be able enter the corrals of Rama”, Spiti field coordinator Tanzin Thinley said after the successful effort. “But in other villages, the same could happen again. So we’re hoping to work with these communities as well and help them make their corrals predator-proof, before there’s a conflict.”

6 Comments

  1. Excellent work! It sounds to me like a most important feature of this work is getting to the village that has suffered the losses as quickly as possible, BEFORE the herders can retaliate, and show them there is a better way to handle predation. This is the nitty gritty work – not the glam work of tracking and collaring or hunting for cubs – that will ultimately prove most effective in helping the people of the snow leopard’s habitat to coexist with their beautiful neighbors. Congratulations!! One more cat saved!!

  2. Thank you for sharing this… I really wish there were more humans like this. There is no reason to go out and kill them. All they are doing is trying to survive. It’s not like they can walk into a store and buy a steak, right?
    Give wildlife a chance at life and having a family that doesn’t have to be run down and killed

  3. While I am very sorry to hear of the loss of the livestock for the villagers, it was very satisfying to read that a solution was sought rather than the killing of the offending wildlife. As stated above, we all l need to coexist peacefully with the magnificent creatures that were on this planet long before we were. Thank you!

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