Shopping for handicrafts by Snow Leopard Enterprises helps protect these cats in more than a quarter of Mongolia’s snow leopard habitat.
Proceeds from the sale of Snow Leopard Enterprises handicrafts go to herder families in snow leopard habitat who produce them – and in return, these families agree to protect the endangered cat in their area.
In Mongolia, where the program first started, 27 communities are participating today.
Mongolia has almost 100,000 square kilometers of confirmed snow leopard habitat. Another 240,000 square kilometers have the potential to be a home for the cats.
Through our conservation agreements with the 27 Snow Leopard Enterprises communities in Mongolia, we are able to protect more than 25,000 square kilometers – or 27% – of the country’s definitive snow leopard habitat. Your purchases of Snow Leopard Enterprises products make this possible!
The income from Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE) eases the economic pressures faced by many communities in snow leopard habitat – which can make a huge difference in how a herder reacts to livestock predation. Many herders completely rely on their livestock to earn their livelihood. SLE offers an alternative.
“Thanks to the income they earn through SLE, a family may no longer feel the need to retaliate if a snow leopard kills one of their animals”, Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science and Conservation Director, explains.
Click here to shop Snow Leopard Enterprises products now! All proceeds go to conservation!
The program’s built-in financial incentives ensure that the effect is felt beyond the individual participant families though:
Usually, more than one family in a community participates in SLE. “Together, each SLE community signs a collective conservation agreement, which promises them all an annual bonus if no poaching of snow leopards occurs in their area. However, if a snow leopard is hurt, the entire community loses their bonus”, Charu says.
This mechanism creates positive peer-pressure:
In 2009, when one of our radio-collared snow leopards was trapped and killed by a herder, the community was upset. The herder happened to belong to a community involved in Snow Leopard Enterprises – and the entire community lost their bonus because of his action.
The SLE participants insisted to the local governor that in addition to the herder being made to face the legal consequences of his action, he must be made to pay the bonus SLE amount that the community had lost due to his violation of the conservation contract.
A Starting Point for A Deeper Commitment
For many communities in snow leopard habitat, Snow Leopard Enterprises is the starting point in a conservation partnership – a partnership that seeks to establish a basis for peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife.
“Communities often lack alternative sources of income beyond what their livestock provides”, explains Charu Mishra. “Snow Leopard Enterprises helps to address this issue, which creates a lot of goodwill among participating families. Often, it’s the beginning of a relationship of mutual trust.”
These relationships can open the door for many other conservation initiatives, as an example from Mongolia shows.
In Tost, a region in the South Gobi, Snow Leopard Enterprises participants were instrumental in establishing a Local Protected Area for wildlife, officially recognized by the authorities as a protected habitat for snow leopards and their prey.
“A few years back, we found out that this area, where we had been studying snow leopards for years, was covered almost entirely with mining licenses. Mining companies were getting ready to dig up mountain ranges that we knew for a fact were home to snow leopards”, Charu recalls.
“We had been running community-conservation programs there for years, and poaching wasn’t a major threat in this area any longer. However, the problem of mining had crept in almost unnoticed.”
Our team immediately began lobbying with the different levels of government. Local communities too were opposed to the idea of losing their grazing land to mining. Through our existing SLE program in the region, we were able to quickly form an alliance against the external threat posed by mining, both to the local way of life as well as the area’s biodiversity.
Finally, this problem turned into a small opportunity when the government agreed to the proposal of declaring this area as the 6500 sq. km. Tost Local Protected Area, which, at least on paper, creates a large, connected landscape of wildlife reserves, with the Great Gobi National Park on the west, and the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park contiguous to the north. It is a step in the right direction, though much more needs to be done.
Critical to Conservation Success
“Snow Leopard Enterprises has been critical to our successful partnerships with communities in the cats’ habitat”, Snow Leopard Trust Executive Director Brad Rutherford says. “The slippers, cat toys, rugs and napkins that were bought by thousands of our supporters have directly helped protect these endangered cats, and continue to do so.”
“Please keep looking at Snow Leopard Enterprises when you’re shopping for gifts”, Charu Mishra adds. “It’s your support that keeps this crucial program going!”