The vital snow leopard habitat of Upper Spiti Valley in the Indian Himalayas is under threat! But with your help, we’re going to restore this paradise before it is lost. You can make a difference with the click of a button and vote for us until March 28th!
Thanks to our conservation partner Dynafit, we’re nominated for a major grant of almost $15,000 that will allow us conserve the endangered snow leopard and restore vital snow leopard habitat in the Upper Spiti Valley, part of the high altitude ecosystem of the Indian Himalayas. Whether we can secure this money depends on you and your friends, as only the project with the most votes will be funded!
Located 4 km above sea level, among snow-capped peaks, the Upper Spiti is one of the least populated regions in India. Upper Spiti encompasses roughlt 3,000 sq km of relatively undeveloped alpine habitat with only about 25 villages. Snow leopards can be found all over this valley known for its green pastures, high altitude lakes, ancient Buddhist monasteries, and rare and endangered wildlife.
Today, however, as this once remote areas has become more accessible and the local economy has been largely integrated with mainstream markets, excessive livestock grazing, unmanaged tourism and infrastructural development have considerably increased the pressure on natural resources, and are threatening the survival of Spiti’s wild lands and wildlife. As high quality grazing land reduces, wild and domestic animals overlap more and more, and human‐wildlife conflicts have become more common. Wild prey such as blue sheep and ibex have decreased significantly due to competition with domestic livestock, and endangered carnivores like snow leopards and wolves are persecuted in retaliation for livestock depredation.
Three pillars of conservation
There is an urgent need to safeguard and conserve the natural qualities that sustain Upper Spiti and make it a unique and beautiful landscape for harmonious co-existence of people and wildlife. To reach this goal, the Snow Leopard Trust and Dynafit are collaborating with villagers to help them manage a suite of integrated programs:
- livestock insurance programs
- livestock‐free wildlife reserves
- environmental education
These initiatives will restore wild lands, increase wild prey abundance, reduce persecution of threatened predators, catalyze greater use of the habitat by the endangered snow leopard, and raise conservation awareness.
Snow leopards and wolves have been persecuted in Upper Spiti due to livestock predation and the economic burden it causes rural families. We are helping seven villages in Upper Spiti manage livestock insurance programs so they can tolerate and help protect threatened predators. Through the livestock insurance program, herders take out insurance on their valuable livestock and are financially compensated for insured animals lost to predation. As part of the program, villagers sign a conservation agreement not to harm in any way or kill snow leopards or their key prey species.
Livestock-free reserves compliment the insurance program. The reserves are small areas of pasture that the village agrees to protect from livestock and other forms of resource use to enable recovery of wild snow leopard prey. We help fund guards to monitor the reserves and pay the village council a mutually agreed-upon grazing compensation fees for their use of alternate pastures. Through this project we will support three reserves: an 8 sq km reserve in the Losar village, a 2.5 sq. km reserve in Chichim village; and a 15 sq km reserve in Kibber village. The large reserve in Kibber serves as habitat for one of the highest density wild ungulate populations in the region – and snow leopards have regularly been seen using the area.
Education augments the community-based conservation programs and helps provide the context for their importance—which is critical for building term sustainability. We are working with 20 schools to run Himalayan Nature Clubs, a forum for disseminating educational materials that we have developed about the landscape, and facilitating outdoor activities. We host Nature Education Camps to help children learn about local flora and fauna, build positive values and feelings about wildlife, and improve their understanding of local ecology—including the position and dependence of humans in the natural world.
All of these programs will greatly benefit from the EOCA grant we’re nominated for – which you can help us secure with your vote. Voting ends on March 28, so please vote today – and ask your friends to vote as well! Voting is real simple and you don’t have to register or sign up for anything!