Snow Leopard Trust
There are an estimated 4000 – 6500 snow leopards left in the wild, which are difficult to conserve due to their elusive behaviour and large home range of over 2 million km². Many of the families sharing snow leopard habitat are herders who live on less than $2 per day. Understandably these people cannot afford to lose animals to predators such as the snow leopard, and sometimes resort to retaliation killings to protect their herds of livestock or earn extra money.
The SLT takes a community based conservation approach that breaks this cycle of poverty and creates an incentive for herders to protect local wildlife.
Livestock vaccinations – Herder families sometimes lose up to five times more livestock to disease than to snow leopard predation. To solve this problem, the Snow Leopard Trust began livestock vaccination programs.
Livestock insurance – when domestic animals graze on the limited local vegetation, the snow leopard’s wild prey is often forced to find food farther away, resulting in the snow leopards targeting the livestock more frequently when hunting. Herders may retaliate against snow leopards to protect their animals, or set steel-jaw traps to stop the cats before they get too close. Through a livestock insurance program, the local community manages a pool of money specifically designated to reimburse families for their losses.
In order for a community to participate in any of these programmes, each member must sign a conservation agreement, to protect the snow leopards and wild prey species living in their area from poaching, as well as leave more food for the snow leopard’s wild prey species by setting aside graze-free areas. An additional cash bonus is awarded at the end of each year to successful communities. However, if any poaching takes place during that time, the bonus is lost. This strong financial incentive encourages the community to work together to protect snow leopards and share information with the Snow Leopard Trust and others in their region.
Snow Leopard Trust Pairs Game
Cameras – Remote cameras take a series of photographs, used to identify specific cats and the places they travel through. This information helps determine where conservation efforts will have the greatest impact.
GPS collars – GPS is a technology that allows a device on the ground to upload a location to a database via satellite. By implanting this device in a collar, along with a battery that will last an entire year, they can be fitted on a wild snow leopard. This is done by setting up snares, which do not hurt the cat, but hold it in place while the collar is fitted. The collar is programmed to release from the cat’s neck a year after it is first set, allowing researchers to locate it and download all the information stored on it. This data helps us understand snow leopard behaviour and habitat needs.
Ecological Surveys – these provide information on the political, biological and cultural factors that influence conservation efforts. This includes; interviewing community members about their attitudes towards conservation, and habitat surveys to document signs of snow leopard presence (i.e. scrapes, scat, scent markings).
Genetic research – Animal scat and hairs are collected from the field, and DNA is extracted to determine which type of animal produced the sample. This information in then analysed to create a specific genetic profile of the individual, providing an insight into the diversity of specific populations, as well as identify individual cats and their relationship to each other, their breeding patterns and the overall health of a snow leopard population within a particular habitat area. We have been providing financial assistance to this project annually.