Tibetan monks help to protect the endangered Snow Leopard

| June 16, 2013 | Reply

When you want to protect large predators like Wolves, Tigers, Lions or Harpy Eagles, you need to involve the local people.
For example in Africa the Lion Guardians program is a very innovative and effective way to protect Lions and mitigate conflict between those large (and sometimes dangerous) cats and the local people.

Now conservationists from the NGO Panthera are working with Buddhist monasteries in Tibet to protect the rare and elusive Snow Leopard.

The current estimate for the global population of Snow Leopards is between 3,500 and 7,000 animals. Exact numbers are impossible to get due to the remote habitat and elusive lifestyle of the species (and political instability in some countries) but it is clear that even the top end of the range – 7,000 cats – is not much.

The Snow Leopard faces a number of threats incl:

  • Illegal killing of Snow Leopards to sell their skins, fur, etc.
  • Retribution killing by farmers who consider Snow Leopards a threat to their livestock.
  • Loss and fragmentation of habitat.
  • Loss of natural prey due to hunting and habitat destruction. Species like Himalayan Ibex, Blue Sheep, Argali, and Markhor are declining in many places due to poaching or badly managed trophy hunting. This can lead to more conflict with local people as the Snow Leopards turn to livestock when no natural prey is available.
  • In the future Climate Change may lead to more loss of habitat and natural prey.

Given this list is it clear that effective Snow Leopard conservation must work to stop the illegal killing for the wildlife trade, increase natural prey populations and reduce conflict with farmers who depend on livestock (If you are poor and only have a few animals and your life depends on them you will have a hard time tolerating the loss of even one animal to a predator like the Snow Leopard).

This new initiative has worked with 4 monasteries in the Sanjiangyuan region so far. The monks are trained and equipped to monitor wildlife. High-ranking monks were asked to tell people about the value of wildlife like Snow Leopards and convince people not to kill wildlife.

The first results seem to be very promising and according to Li Juan, a researcher who is part of the project, this could be expanded to other Tibetan Buddhist regions and help protect Snow Leopards in up to 80% of their range.

This is a great example of how important and effective it can be to involve the local people in the conservation of wildlife, particularly when it comes to large predators.

More information about this project can be found here:
Report on Mongabay and interview with Tom McCarthy and Li Juan about the project.

More information about Snow Leopard conservation.:

Panthera’s Snow Leopard Program

The Snow Leopard Trust


Category: cats, conservation

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