Snow Leopards & People

Snow leopards have spatial needs that can’t be met by Protected Areas alone. If these cats are to have a future, we need to create conditions for the to coexist with the people who share their habitat.

This is turn requires an understanding of how people and snow leopards interact and impact each other.

Attitudes

Our team is studying how individuals and communities in snow leopard habitat perceive these cats and other predators, and what factors influence their attitudes toward them. Age, gender, education, and religion can all have an impact on how someone views snow leopards – as can the extent of livestock predation.

Predation & Retaliation
Predator-proof corrals are one approach to minimize snow leopard predation on livestock.

Retaliatory killings of snow leopards have been a major threat to these cats for many years.

As humans encroach on the snow leopard’s habitat, encounters between the cats and domestic livestock become more frequent – and they often end fatally for both.

Through our research, we’re gaining insights into when and where snow leopards most often prey on livestock – and how these conflicts can be prevented.

Grazing Pressure
herded sheep in the Himalayas
Domestic livestock outnumber wild snow leopard prey in many parts of the Himalayas.

Resources are scarce in the barren habitat of the snow leopard. Wild prey species such as ibex or argali are competing for food with growing herds of livestock – and their populations have come under pressure.

Our researchers are investigating the impact of different forms of livestock grazing on grasslands, and are working with herding communities to pilot more sustainable approaches, such as the setting aside of grazing-free reserves.

The Cashmere Threat

The expensive cashmere – or pashmina – wool has become hugely popular. The growing demand has led to herders across snow leopard habitat – in China, Mongolia, and India – to increase livestock production significantly.

Our team has been part of a research effort to understand the complex dynamics of cashmere supply and demand on Central Asia’s ecosystems. As a result of this work, we’ve begun a pilot project to establish snow leopard-friendly cashmere production in partnership with local communities in the cat’s habitat.