“One snow leopard is killed every day”, the ad says, before asking passersby to help stop the killing and save the cat. Those who want to take action for the snow leopard are invited to text the word YES to 66866, after which they’ll receive further information on how they can help.
“The hustle and bustle of Times Square is about as different from the snow leopard’s home in the remote mountains of Central Asia as you could imagine”, says Michael Despines, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Executive Director. “At the same time, the world’s busiest intersection is the perfect place to introduce one of the most elusive creatures on the planet to thousands of people who may never have heard of it before.”
The conservation organization has produced the ad to raise a red flag of warning, because the snow leopard is faced with a real risk of extinction. “Our current best estimate is that there may be as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in the wild today. That’s less than the number of people who have walked across Times Square in the last half hour”, Despines says.
A recent report by the anti-wildlife trade network TRAFFIC has found that between 220 and 450 snow leopards have been killed each year since 2008. That adds up to about one cat every day on average.
Commercial poaching is one important threat – but retaliation by herders trying to protect their livestock accounts for more than half of all snow leopard killings.
“Many of the herders are very poor. They depend on their animals for survival. These people don’t kill snow leopards out of greed, but out of desperation”, Michael Despines says. “If we can prevent livestock attacks by snow leopards, create alternative sources of income for local communities, and help herder families receive compensation when they do suffer predation, we can save these snow leopards”, Despines adds. “In fact, thanks to our amazing supporters, we’ve been doing that successfully for three decades in five countries. But we need to do more.”
The campaign’s aim is to make wildlife lovers in New York City and elsewhere aware of the snow leopard and the imminent threat it faces. “We currently have a few thousand supporters who help us protect snow leopards. Imagine what could be possible if we doubled that number!”
The Snow Leopard Trust’s Times Square ad will be shown three times per hour from now until the end of March 2017 on the giant video screen at 1500 Broadway (corner of West 43rd Street). It features stunning snow leopard images that were generously donated by Peter Bolliger, Emmanuel Keller and Daniel Münger.