Home Species We Protect Snow Leopards How DSWF is protecting Snow Leopards
Behzad Larry
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

How DSWF is protecting Snow Leopards

How DSWF is protecting Snow Leopards

The snow leopard is one of the most an elusive members of the big cat family, living in the remote mountain ranges of central Asia. Its shy nature presents a challenge in monitoring populations, but they are officially classed as being ‘vulnerable to extinction’, with the number of snow leopards left in the wild estimated to be between 3,500 and 6,500.

So, how can we save snow leopards? David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) has worked with frontline conservation partners in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan for more than two decades, helping shape programmes and legislation that will safeguard the snow leopard’s future.

Artwork by Detlef Tibax
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Snow Leopard - Behzad Larry
Habitat Protection

DSWF protects existing snow leopard habitats from human and industrial encroachment.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Anti-poaching Initiatives

DSWF has also supported the rollout of anti-poaching and anti-kill incentives.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Education and Awareness Projects

In both Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, DSWF supports conservation-based education programmes for children. Ironically, it is often those living alongside these iconic species that suffer the greatest disconnect from nature, and it is most prevalent among the youngest generations. Through education sessions and weeklong eco camps funded by DSWF, children from these communities can now get hands on with nature and forge a lasting connection with the wild world around them to better understand and appreciate the intrinsic value and benefit of nature.

Fight. Protect. Engage. Fight. Protect. Engage.
Behzad Larry
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Protecting Critical Snow Leopard Habitats

We work to protect existing snow leopard habitats by ensuring they are safe from human and industrial encroachment. Without the room they need to hunt and survive, populations of snow leopards and their prey don’t stand a chance of recovering. Preventing human expansion into their already limited roaming areas, pushing back against the construction of mines and other agricultural developments, and expanding protected areas, is at the heart of our strategy.

In Mongolia, home to an estimated 1,000 snow leopards, DSWF has played a crucial role in transforming a former hunting concession (where ibex, a primary prey species for snow leopards, were commercially hunted), into a co-managed sanctuary. The Tost Nature Reserve, nestled in its namesake mountains on the edge of Mongolia’s south Gobi region, became the first protected area designated specifically for snow leopards in 2016. Not just a standalone reserve, Tost is also a vital wildlife corridor that now connects two further protected areas, creating the world’s largest continuous safeguarded snow leopard habitat. It is home to a thriving population of the big cats, whilst also supporting healthy and stable numbers of ibex and argali – the snow leopard’s favoured prey.

Kyrgyzstan is also a vital region for snow leopard conservation – ranking fifth for the population it supports (200-400), and fourth in terms of habitat. Pristine mountains with rocky ridgelines and plateaus dominate the landscape, with over 75% of it considered prime real estate for snow leopards.

One of the other most important factors in making Kyrgyzstan a high priority for snow leopards, is its geographical location. It is the bridge connecting Russia and Mongolia to the rest of the snow leopard’s western and southern range, enabling potential travel, and intermingling of populations.

In Kyrgyzstan, DSWF’s focus is on another former hunting concession – the Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Tian Shan mountains. We’ve funded key improvements and upgrades to the reserve’s infrastructure, as well as supporting its ranger teams by providing essential equipment, such as camera traps to aid monitoring and research.

Funding Ground-Breaking Research

Taking steps to better understand the populations of snow leopards remaining in the wild is essential to protecting them and their habitats effectively. In Mongolia, DSWF supports ground-breaking scientific studies and long-term research into snow leopard behaviour (the longest of its kind anywhere in the world), habitats, and population dynamics. The study utilises GPS collars, camera traps, and extensive in-person monitoring (and has done so for well over a decade), to gradually enhance our understanding of these enigmatic big cats. Also, crucially important for snow leopard population recovery, is a healthy prey base. So, our conservation partners also collar and monitor these species (primarily ibex), to better understand predator-prey dynamics and how hunter and hunted interact.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Snow Leopard Trust
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Supporting Community-Based Conservation

DSWF supports micro financing schemes and community-based income-generating programmes in key snow leopard habitats, ensuring those who live alongside snow leopards benefit from their protection. 

Many families who live in the remote regions of Mongolia where snow leopards are found, live on less than $2 per day. The loss of even a single animal from their herd can create unimaginable financial hardship and lead to retaliatory killings of snow leopards. To combat this, DSWF supports a handicraft programme that provides training, micro-credit loans, and logistical support to over 300 families who create and sell fine handmade wool crafts. Shipped and sold overseas in aid of snow leopards, 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 has also supported the rollout of anti-poaching and anti-kill incentives. Participants (herders and their communities), receive a 30% conservation bonus at the end of each year, if their regions stay free of poaching and killing – of both snow leopards and their prey. We also fund proactive human-wildlife conflict measures, such as the provision of predator-proof livestock enclosures to ensure a peaceful co-existence in these rural and rugged landscapes. 

Dennis Conner
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

With your donations DSWF will continue to support

  • Funding insurance schemes and the development and provision of predator proof corrals to prevent retaliatory killings of snow leopards
  • Backing educational and eco-workshops encouraging positive co-existence between snow leopards and local communities
  • Provision of camera traps and monitoring programmes to study behaviour patterns, prey density, and population growth
  • Supporting the development and management of converted hunting concessions as pristine snow leopard habitats in Kyrgyzstan
  • Financing population data studies to better understand distribution and global population numbers
  • Installing micro-financing and and enabling alternative livelihood schemes for rural communities in snow leopard areas

You can support our work to save endangered animals from extinction by adopting today.

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