Snow Leopard Vodka, the iconic premium spirit with a mission to save its namesake cat, is celebrating its 10th anniversary today! By donating 15% of its profits to snow leopard conservation, the spirits brand has raised a total of $270,000 for the benefit of this endangered feline! Thank you to Stephen Sparrow, Snow Leopard Trust UK, Edrington, and the many affiliated businesses and aficionados who drink and promote Snow Leopard Vodka, and thereby improve the lives of snow leopards and local communities.
Here’s a ‘top-10’ highlight of great impacts Snow Leopard Vodka has made for these cats
1) Anti-Poaching Rewards
In Kyrgyzstan, poaching of snow leopards and their prey is a major problem. Frontline rangers often lack the training and support they need to apprehend poachers and turn them in to the authorities. In response, we created a ‘ranger rewards program’ to publicly recognize and financially awards rangers for their anti-poaching efforts. IWT Challenge Fund through the UK Government helped us expand this program nationally. Snow Leopard Trust UK and Edrington provided matching funds for the creation of a Trust Fund to support the rewards into perpetuity. In March 2015, this program was able to award its first 10 rangers in Kyrgyzstan!
Read the full press release here: http://www.snowleopard.org/anti-poaching-heroes-honored-on-world-wildlife-day
2) Dzud relief in Mongolia
In the winter of 2010, Mongolia experienced their worst winter in three decades. Families suffered unimaginable losses as millions of livestock—their primary source of livelihood—were wiped out by extreme cold. Snow Leopard Trust UK stepped up in this time of dire need, donating over $11,000 from sales of Snow Leopard Vodka to bring emergency aid to local communities and help them rebuild their lives. The legacy of this gift continues today, through thriving relationships with over 30 rural herding communities in Mongolia that are working to protect snow leopards.
3) Research camera surveys in Kyrgyzstan
In fall 2013, SLT UK and Edrington supported a pilot study in Kyrgyzstan using 10 remote sensor research cameras to photograph and count snow leopards in the important Sarychat-Ertash Nature Reserve. The following spring, they enabled the launch of a full study using over 30 cameras. This is the first long-term, systematic survey of snow leopard populations in Kyrgyzstan!
4) Handicrafts and Women Empowerment
When you help women, you help the whole family. Through our Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE) program, we help women increase their family income through handicraft sales. The extra income offsets losses due to wildlife damage, and improves people’s attitudes towards snow leopards and wildlife conservation. Over the past 10 years, contributions from Snow Leopard Vodka sales have helped expand the program and improve the product line. Today Snow Leopard Enterprises is reaching over 380 women across four countries, and most women earn on average $160 US/year in handicraft sales – an increase of their annual income of as much as 40%.
5) Conservation Bonuses
Every community we work with signs Conservation Contracts agreeing to protect snow leopards and their prey. If even one person in the community violated the contract, bonus monies can be lost. Last year, we found no signs of poaching in or around partner communities in Mongolia—a true community-wide success! Over $9,000 US was provided to communities in conservation bonus monies.
For many kids, going to camp is a transformative experience. During the summer months, the Snow Leopard Trust hosts hands-on education camps for children ages 10-14 to bring them closer to nature. Camp activities focus on raising awareness about local biodiversity, landscapes, and the need for conservation. A particular favorite of Stephen Sparrow’s since Snow Leopard Vodka’s founding, the camps have reached incredible results: Since 2006, we’ve been able to hold camps every year in northern India, reaching over 1,100 children.
7) Nature Clubs
In India and Pakistan, sales from Snow Leopard Vodka are supporting over 60 Nature Clubs in local schools. These clubs reach out to and educate their peers on nature and wildlife conservation. For instance, in June 2015, one Nature Club in India helped school children learn about how ‘the Earth is heating up’. Our field staff introduced the basic concepts of greenhouse gases and climate change with examples from their local regions to the children in classes 6 to 8.
8) Predator-proof Corrals
In Ladakh, India, local people live in small villages and rely on livestock for survival. Families suffer incredible hardship when their valuable livestock are lost to snow leopard and wolf predation. One goat can equal a month’s income in this part of the world, so many herders harbor negative attitudes towards predators that can lead to persecution, and, sometimes, retaliatory killing/poaching. Donations raised by Snow Leopard Vodka helped us build 8 corrals for 29 families in the village of Chumathang to protect all small livestock in the village from predation.
9) Livestock Vaccinations in Pakistan
During summer 2015, over 86,000 livestock were vaccinated from 3,900 households in northern Pakistan. Our data show livestock mortality due to disease has dropped by more than 50% in villages participating in this livestock and ecosystem health program, providing communities with a buffer against livestock depredation by snow leopards.
10) Snow Leopard Collaring
Snow leopards have historically been one of the least studied of the big cats. In 2008, Snow Leopard Trust and out partners launched the first long-term study of snow leopards in Mongolia’s South Gobi. Since that time, we’ve been placing GPS collars on snow leopards to learn more about their behavior and habitat use. A male snow leopard named Aztai was the longest-studied wild snow leopard in history and the first cat to wear a GPS collar in this study. Stephen Sparrow was able to catch a glimpse of Aztai in the field. To date, the Snow Leopard Trust has been able to collar a total of 20 snow leopards– more than all other such studies put together.
We’re looking forward to the next decade in this fruitful partnership, and wish our friends at Snow Leopard Vodka a Happy Birthday. If you’d like to learn more about the brand and where it’s available, please read this blog article from 2015.