World Snow Leopard Day: Protecting a species on the brink of extinction
Today the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is celebrating World Snow Leopard Day and are delighted to share with you updates from our dedicated ground-based conservation partners, operating in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan to save this iconic big cat.
Despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic, our long term partners at the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) have been working day and night to protect vital snow leopard populations in their mountain home ranges. However, we need your help more than ever to protect these elusive and critically endangered cats
Snow leopard update from Mongolia
Acknowledging that local communities and their active participation is integral to snow leopard survival, DSWF support a number of community outreach and alterative livelihood programmes in Mongolia. These initiatives are focused on reducing snow leopard poaching, often as a result of retaliatory killing for livestock predation, as well as the positive creation of alternative income stabilisation streams to generate greater social tolerance for snow leopards.
“Given the global pandemic spreading across the world like wildlife, operations in Mongolia are “operating as close to normal as possible” explains Siri Okamoto, Development Director at SLT.
“Our main offices in Ulaanbaatar are open, field staff are able to travel, and local communities are able to meet in small groups and carry on program operations,” says Siri Okamoto
Despite the determination to carry on, we face severe challenges to more remote aspects of our supported work. The award-winning Snow Leopard Enterprises project, which supports local women by purchasing handicraft products and supplementing their income, has seen reduced sales due to the economic downturn. Despite this, SLT have remained in contact and arranged payments electronically to continue this vital initiative.
The in person eco-education programmes have also had to be put on hold due to the pandemic alongside plans to expand the reach of these camps and training workshops. However, SLT have adapted to the times and developed summer home books and virtual learning materials for children, distributing over 300 copies to schools.
Snow leopard update in Kyrgyzstan
DSWF were one of primary partners of SLT, Kyrgyzstan in helping to ensure an old hunting concession was converted and rewilded, helping expand prime snow leopard habitat in the area. Building on this landscape expansion DSWF now fund vital conservation education
programmes to increase awareness about the need to protect snow leopard populations. We also support efforts to mitigate retaliatory killings through livestock protection.
The global pandemic has had a significant impact on snow leopard operations in Kyrgyzstan.
“The number of cases amongst communities is much higher than in Mongolia. The situation has recently been exacerbated by political unrest over national elections, which caused riots in the capital,” says Siri Okamoto
Community and government meetings have been minimal over the last few months and offices are still closed. However, SLT continue to reach out to communities via phone and over email, tirelessly working through these unprecedented challenges to provide protection to snow leopard populations and support the communities most affected by human-wildlife conflict.
In the wake of the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on the world, DSWF’s conservation work is more important than ever if we are to turn the tide on extinction for snow leopards and other endangered wildlife.
The economic pressure on these vulnerable communities is mounting, which in turn will have an impact on snow leopard conservation as human-wildlife conflict and pressure on wilderness areas increase.
“It is likely most of us will never have the privilege of seeing a snow leopard in the wild, but there is wonder in knowing they exist in the uncharted mountains of Asia, and we must do all we can to protect them,” says Georgina Lamb, Chief Executive.
Stand with us on World Snow Leopard Day and help us protect these ghosts of the mountains by donating today.
Alternatively, you can make a snow leopard adoption as a Christmas gift that keeps on giving.