This summer our team traveled approximately 2,500 km overland and visited 9 of the 27 communities where we have implemented community based conservation programs with our Mongolia partner organization, Snow Leopard Conservation Fund (SLCF). We wanted to better understand the communities and threats to snow leopards by meeting with them to discuss their ecological, environmental, cultural, socio-economic, and political situation and mitigation of threats by us and other organizations.
Our team held workshops with each community to help them designate the boundaries of the area where they are taking responsibility to prevent poaching and ensure protection to the snow leopard habitat. We conducted surveys in known snow leopard habitat with the help of local community rangers, in order to make rapid assessments of the habitat quality, prey distribution, community’s seasonal land use patterns, and threats in the study area. This data will be used to create detailed maps with satellite imagery from several years, and will eventually help in monitoring the performance of our conservation programs in reducing threats faced by snow leopards and their habitats.
On the drive back to the capital of Ulaanbaatar the team visited a site in the Zavkhan province that the local government’s environment department has identified as a potential candidate for a community based conservation program. People in this area have recently been complaining about livestock losses to snow leopards and other predators. The environment department officials had attended one of our training programs in 2009, and plan to work closely with our Mongolia partner, SLCF, on developing appropriate conservation programs and enable monitoring of them in snow leopard habitat.
We learned a tremendous amount from visiting with our existing community partners, and look forward to how we will continue to expand our impact, and engage with new communities, like in Zavkhan province.