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World Snow Leopard Day 2023

A close up portrait of a snow leopard

Preventing the Ghost of the Mountain from Disappearing Altogether

Today is World Snow Leopard Day – a celebration of this vulnerable and enigmatic big cat, and one of our star species here at DSWF. Snow leopards are powerful apex predators in their domain but are also an early indicator of the impact of climate disruption. Unfortunately, snow leopards are highly sensitive to changes in their environment – including fluctuations in prey populations as well as habitat loss and human encroachment.

In its native Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, snow leopards are known as both the king and the ghost of the mountain. These monikers hint at the majesty and power they hold, as well as their highly elusive nature. But with only between 3,920 and 6,390* left, DSWF is committed to funding and supporting vital work that will prevent snow leopards from disappearing altogether.

*Snow Leopard Trust

Working Together

Despite their protected status and vulnerability, snow leopards face a real threat of being killed in retaliation to livestock deaths attributed to them. Humans also influence the survival of snow leopards by illegally hunting their core prey species, such as blue sheep. It’s one of the reasons DSWF prioritises work with indigenous communities. Semi-nomadic herders share the harsh and unforgiving landscapes of their homeland with snow leopards and other wildlife. Given the challenges of living in the Himalayan plateaus, it is understandable that they would be willing to defend their livelihoods and take the opportunity to hunt what they can. Our work centres around enabling co-existence through respectful engagement and empathetic conservation partnerships with these local communities.

The work we fund with Snow Leopard Trust supports herders through livestock insurance programmes and economic development initiatives (such as the manufacture and sale of handicrafts). This has enabled a level of interaction with the communities that builds trust and encourages a more collaborative approach to wildlife conflict management. And through education outreach, we can instill a new appreciation for snow leopards in the next generation.

Celebrating World Snow Leopard Day at Local Level

With your help, we’ve been able to take World Snow Leopard Day into the schools and classrooms of Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. In 2022, 1200 school children in Mongolia joined us to celebrate snow leopards and a further 42 took part in summer eco camps held in Tost Nature Reserve.

In Kyrgyzstan, 444 students aged 11-12 also took part in World Snow Leopard Day themed sessions and workshops. Through the Snow Leopard Trust and another organisation, we’ve been able to reach 40 schools and provided educational posters and resources to support teachers with new lesson plans and ideas that increase motivation and engagement centred around the environment. We’ve also helped produce five traditional folk tales about nature as audiobooks that can be shared in class for free.

Pioneering Research

Snow leopards are not just one of the least studied of the big cats but perhaps one of the least studied mammals on the planet. DSWF is supporting vital work that will provide new insights into their behaviour, enabling us to put better solutions in place to safeguard their future. In the last year, we’ve seen three snow leopards safely fitted with GPS collars, and just as importantly, three ibex. By monitoring the dynamic interactions between predator and prey, we’ll have valuable data on which to base recommendations about habitat preservation, hunting, and population numbers. Backing this will also be a network of over 150 wildlife cameras not only enabling us to keep track of these stealthy predators, but also monitor potential poacher incursions and enable us to focus ranger patrols on areas where we know snow leopards are residing.

Thanks to the focus on research being supported and funded by DSWF, our very own snow leopard super mum and ambassador, Dagina, is the exception to the norm and probably the best studied snow leopard in the world. We have reason to believe that her two most recent cubs, now approximately 1.5 years old, have either recently dispersed and separated from her or are getting ready to do so – as they have been seen travelling together on their own. Another of her cubs, a male known as Bugs and born in 2019, appears to have set up his own territory too. Dagina herself has remained elusive recently, but we hope to have updates on both her and her extended family in the next few months.

Image Credit Frida lannerstrom

What You Can Do to Help

If you love snow leopards as much as we do and want to be directly involved with saving this incredible and beautiful big cat, then why not adopt our snow leopard ambassador, Dagina. You’ll get updates from our projects in the field, a beautiful snow leopard print by Mandy Shepherd, a species fact sheet, and the option of adding a hand-crocheted toy made by Little Ndaba – a woman’s group based in Zimbabwe funded and supported by DSWF. You can also donate specifically towards our snow leopard work here. Happy World Snow Leopard Day everyone and thank you for the support that enables our vital and far-reaching projects in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan.

Adopt a Snow Leopard

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

You can help us protect snow leopards, by adopting our ambassador, Dagina, from as little as £3 per month.

You’ll get a personalised certificate, species fact sheets, a photograph, special artwork print of a snow leopard and the option of a toy, hand knitted by the ladies of the Little Ndaba group in Zambia.

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