Here are some of the key achievements you made possible in 2017:
Research: unlocking the secrets to snow leopard survival
In April 2017, our scientists placed GPS collars on three new wild snow leopards in Mongolia. In October of the same year, they managed to re-collar another cat we’d previously tracked in 2015.
We have now collared a total of 23 snow leopards since our study began, which is more than all previous snow leopard telemetry studies combined. In July, one of the collared cats—a young female—led us to a rare active den discovery. While she was away hunting, our researchers were able to weigh and measure two healthy newborn cubs, a male and female. Building on prior den visits in 2012 and 2013, we now have first-ever data on newborn cubs from a total of four dens and six cubs. These data will help us answer questions related to snow leopard birth rates, sex ratios, litter sizes, and cub survival.
We also continued snow leopard population surveys in India, China, Mongolia, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. In Mongolia, we surveyed ~7,000 km2 across several mountain ranges thanks to the invaluable help of local rangers. Thus far, photos from three of our target areas show females with young, a good sign for the future of snow leopards in southern Mongolia.
New Protected Areas and National Anti-Poaching Efforts
In Mongolia, the newly-formed Tost Nature Reserve—the country’s first Protected Area designated for snow leopards—official boundaries were confirmed by the Government, making it possible to enforce measures that will reduce poaching, mining and unsustainable land development.
In Kyrgyzstan, Interpol provided wildlife managers with training in anti-poaching law enforcement. These managers are being primed as future trainers, so they can build and maintain skills of 100+ frontline rangers across the country.
Also in Kyrgyzstan, you helped us successfully manage the former hunting concession of Shamshy, converted into a Protected Area. This is a novel approach to prey recovery that we are testing in collaboration with Government of Kyrgyzstan. Having seen the success of the first year, they are keen to expand the model and covert more former hunting areas into Wildlife Sanctuaries.
A Few Words about Global Snow Leopard Conservation
To truly secure snow leopard survival for the future, governments must champion, own and take forward snow leopard conservation as a priority. Thanks to a unified strategy, called Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), we are seeing incredible momentum towards this goal.
The Snow Leopard Trust has been key technical advisor to GSLEP since it began. In August 2017, we helped organize the 2nd Global Snow Leopard Forum in Kyrgyzstan. Highlights include:
- Nearly 600 attendees—the largest political gathering for snow leopards ever
- High-level participation from all 12 snow leopard range countries, including the President of Kyrgyzstan, Vice-President of Afghanistan, Deputy Speaker of Uzbekistan
- Welcome address via video from the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres
- All 12 range countries endorsed the 2017 Bishkek Declaration for Snow Leopards
- Five countries completed management plans to increase protection across large landscapes
- A ‘Statement of Concern’ about the IUCN downgrading of snow leopards from Endangered to Vulnerable endorsed by all snow leopard range countries
In their statement, the range countries said they ‘Strongly appeal to the IUCN to maintain the ‘Endangered’ Red List status of snow leopards until scientifically sound data on Snow Leopard populations and its trends become available. To help produce such a dataset, we are teaming up with a wide range of conservation organizations in a new collaborative initiative called PAWS (Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards).
Given the large uncertainties in how snow leopard populations across the range are doing and how many of these cats remain, the PAWS project will be one of the Snow Leopard Trust’s priorities moving forward.
Community Conservation—Improving Livelihoods for families in snow leopard habitat
With your support, we were able to launch a new program for environmentally sustainable cashmere in 2017.
The multibillion dollar global cashmere industry is producing overgrazing and trophic cascades across Asia’s iconic mountains. Holdings of domestic cashmere goats have almost tripled in the last 20 years, with concomitant increases in killing of snow leopards by humans protecting their herds. There is severe degradation to rangelands, massive declines in wild prey species, and even local extinctions.
Thanks to the support of our donors, we developed a program that enables herders to implement ecologically-sound grazing and wildlife protection plans in order to receive ‘Sustainable Cashmere’ certification. The program provides monitoring/proof for certification, and buyers pay above-market premiums for certified cashmere, increasing earnings and incentives for herders.
We successfully piloted this program in three villages in northern India involving135 herders last year. Learning from this pilot will help us improve and expand the model within India. Our ultimate goal is to also introduce it in China and Mongolia—two of the world’s largest cashmere producers. If this program is successful, it could have huge potential for shifting the cashmere industry to being more sustainable.
With your support, the Snow Leopard Enterprises handicraft program expanded in Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan and India. This program empowers women in snow leopard habitat to earn extra income, and have greater voice and engagement in conservation. In Kyrgyzstan, earnings from the program have been high enough for communities to stop aiding illegal hunters and poachers, and rely on conservation-based income instead. In 2017, 400 women from 37 communities participated in Snow Leopard Enterprises earning, on average, between $100-$300 in extra income.
In Pakistan, you made it possible for more than 3,000 households to take part in a ‘snow leopard-friendly livestock vaccination program’ and vaccinate over 60,000 livestock. Data show that livestock mortality to disease drops by more than 50% in participating villages. This helps communities buffer against livestock depredation and build tolerance for the cats.
Education—Building the next generation of conservationists
Your support made popular eco-camps possible in India and Mongolia, reaching 310 children. Eco-camps create positive attitudes towards wildlife among school children. In Mongolia, we invited 10 new children and their teachers from a potential expansion region called Sevrei. The Sevrei teachers loved the experience so much that they are now using parts of the curriculum at their school.
In India and Pakistan, roughly 1,900 children participated in Himalayan Nature Clubs that we help run in rural schools. In India, club leaders completed two environmental education activities: a discussion on “Humans and Wildlife: Conflict or Coexistence?”, and a new one to build love of nature through birdwatching. In Pakistan, Nature Club children received copies of a new comic book called “Why Make the Snow Leopard an Enemy.” Written in Urdu for a wide audience, the book is available for all Nature Club participants and is also being distributed to schools nationwide.