How DSWF is protecting Snow Leopards

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) has been a proud supporter of the snow leopard for many years, partnering with ground-based conservation experts in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan.

By funding holistic conservation initiatives, DSWF are working alongside communities, governments and conservation experts in Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia to provide snow leopards with the most robust form of protection to ensure they have a bright future.

Protecting critical snow leopard habitats

We work to protect existing snow leopard habitats by ensuring key areas are protected without threats from human and industrial encroachment. By preventing human expansion into their already limited roaming areas, pushing back against the construction of mines and other agricultural developments in their habitats and gaining protection of parks is at the heart of our support. Without the room they need to hunt and survive, populations don’t stand a chance of recovering.

Supporting community-based conservation projects

Taking steps to understand the populations of snow leopards that remain in the wild is essential in order to protect them and their habitats effectively. DSWF supports community-based conservation projects that are based on scientific understanding of snow leopard behaviour, needs, habitats and threats.

We also support our ground-based conservation partners to undertake rigorous scientific study to further develop scientific data about snow leopards.

DSWF has long supported community-based income-generating programmes in key snow leopard habitats designed to support both wildlife and local communities who share a common landscape and educational camps to raise conservation awareness in children and adults alike.

Education and awareness projects

In Kyrgyzstan, DSWF is supporting a new conservation education programme for children. It has been found that there is a general disconnect with nature in local communities, most prevalent among children. The programme aims to tackle this and promote positive co-existence reducing the threats facing this iconic species.

Protecting snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan

DSWF is helping to turn a former hunting concession, where ibex were commercially hunted, into a co-managed nature reserve to help protect snow leopards in this important area.

In March 2016, DSWF partnered with Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) to pilot a new conservation programme in Kyrgyzstan: turning a hunting concession into a co-managed nature reserve. Camera trap evidence in September 2016 shows a vibrant snow leopard population and reinforces the importance of this project.

Kyrgyzstan is one of the most important snow leopard conservation range countries, it ranks fifth in the world for snow leopard population (200 – 400 cats) and fourth in terms of habitat. Mountains dominate the landscape and over 75 per cent of the country is snow leopard habitat. One of the other most important factors in making Kyrgyzstan a high priority for snow leopards is its geographical location as the possible connection between the northern snow leopard populations in Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan to the rest of the range countries to the west and south.

With ibex being one of the most important prey species for snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan the team are now focussing on a 100 square mile former hunting concession in the northern Tian Shan Mountains called Shamshy.

Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary

Shamshy is home to ibex, and seasonal populations of argali (mountain sheep) and wolves. It lies within a large snow leopard landscape and has the potential to become a key part of the home ranges of several snow leopards if its wild ungulate population can be increased.

This innovative, new programme has been made possible by a partnership between the Snow Leopard Trust (funded by DSWF), Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan, and the Department of Hunting and Natural Resource Management under the State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry of the Kyrgyz Republic. DSWF is helping launch the programme by funding key improvements and upgrades to the infrastructure of the reserve, support for rangers, and essential equipment like trap cameras for research.

Protecting snow leopards in Mongolia

DSWF funds work to protect the snow leopard through research, monitoring and anti-poaching programmes and by engaging with local communities to ensure that they benefit directly from wildlife rather than persecuting it.

The snow leopard is an elusive member of the big cat family living in the remote mountain ranges of central Asia. It is now endangered with experts estimating that numbers in the wild are as low as 3,500 – 6,500. They are killed by local herdsmen to protect their flocks and their fur and body parts are sold to the fur and traditional Chinese medicine trades.

DSWF supports the work of the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) which was set up to research and save these animals from the brink of extinction while developing management plans for their future conservation.

Snow leopard monitoring and research in Mongolia

We fund a long-term monitoring project that is gathering comprehensive information to enable scientists to understand and help protect these endangered cats known as the ghost of the mountains. GPS tracking collars help scientists understand how snow leopards move around the landscape and research cameras provide a wealth of knowledge about their location and behaviour. Using this information and relating it to specific snow leopards, it is possible to pinpoint areas in greatest need of conservation within Mongolia.

Tost Tosonbumba Nature Reserve

In April 2016, DSWF funding helped create the first Nature Reserve specifically for snow leopards. Situated in the Tost Mountains in Mongolia’s South Gobi the reserve is a bridge between two existing Protected Areas and has created one of the world’s largest continuous protected snow leopard habitats. This is a huge step forward for snow leopard protection in this part of its range.

Working with communities to protect Mongolian snow leopards

Many families who live in the remote regions of Mongolia where snow leopards are found live on under $2 per day. The loss of even a single animal from their herd can create financial hardship and retaliation against the snow leopard as a result of any livestock killings. To combat this, DSWF supports a handicraft programme that provides training, micro-credit loans and logistical support to over 300 families to create and sell fine handmade wool crafts. Shipped and sold overseas in aid of the snow leopard, this flagship programme has been supported by DSWF since the 1990s and is one of the largest grassroots snow leopard conservation projects in Mongolia.

DSWF also supports the provision of incentives; herders agree to stop poaching and illegally killing snow leopards and prey species within their community and, at the end of the year, participants receive a 30% conservation bonus if no-one in their region has violated this contract.

How your donation to DSWF helps snow leopards

  • Insurance schemes and the development of predator proof corrals to ensure retaliation killing of snow leopards is averted in Mongolia
  • Educational and eco-workshops to encourage the positive co-existence of snow leopards and local communities
  • Camera trapping and monitoring programmes to study behaviour patterns, prey density and population growth
  • The development and management of converted hunting concessions to pristine snow leopard habitats in Kyrgyzstan
  • Population data studies to better understand distribution and global population numbers
  • Micro-financing and alternative livelihood schemes for rural communities in snow leopard areas
  • Predator proof corral developments to help ensure livestock predation is averted to avoid retaliation killing.

Snow leopards are found in 12 countries in central Asia and spread across two million km2 across the continent, with 65 percent of their habitat found in China alone. 

You can support our work to save snow leopards from extinction by donating today.