Fight is On to Save the Last 4,000 Snow Leopards in the World

On World Tiger Day, conservationists talk about the need to save another big cat, the snow leopard. 

3 min read

The snow leopard, an endangered species, is a big cat found in the mountains of Central Asia and South Asia. Ahead of an international conference on the snow leopard, several conservation organisations, including the Snow Leopard Trust and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have launched a joint online campaign to save the big cat.

The conference titled ‘International Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Forum’, will take place in the Central Asian country Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek on 24-25 August, and will see in attendance, representatives from 12 countries including India, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan and Mongolia. Speaking to The Quint, Rishi Kumar Sharma, Snow Leopard Coordinator, WWF-India said:

I will be among those attending next month’s conference in Bishkek. There will also be a representative from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change accompanying the Indian team. 
Approximate Number of Snow Leopards in India

Wildlife conservationists across the world launched the #SaveSnowLeopards online petition a week ago, urging leaders from the 12 countries, which fall under the snow leopard’s habitat range, to take immediate action to save the cat.

Among their demands is a strategy to tackle poaching and illegal trade of snow leopards and ensuring that development projects, especially in rural areas, are sustainable, while not encroaching upon wildlife habitat.

Approximate Number of Snow Leopards Left 
Conflict with local herder communities might be the most pressing threat snow leopards face today. Many of these people live below poverty lines, and can ill afford to lose livestock to attacks from predators. In desperation, they sometimes retaliate against snow leopards. To break this vicious circle, we need to support these communities and help them coexist with the cat.
Michael Despines, Executive Director, Snow Leopard Trust
220 - 450
Number of Snow Leopards Killed Each Year

According to TRAFFIC’s (a conservation programme) Senior Programme Director for Asia, James Compton:

TRAFFIC’s analysis found that a minimum of four snow leopards were poached every week since 2008; we strongly encourage all 12 range States to combat these unacceptably high levels of poaching and are ready to support these efforts by providing information to help target interventions to stop snow leopard poaching and trafficking. 
China, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan
Countries Where 90 % of Snow Leopard Poaching Takes Place

Compton also feels that even if poaching were to be kept in check, the snow leopard would still face grave threats, such as the loss of its habitat.

Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh
Habitat Range in India for the Snow Leopard

Talking about the threat of development projects to the snow leopard, Rishi Kumar Sharma says:

Most snow leopard range states are developing countries or emerging economies. Many of them are planning or undertaking large-scale infrastructure or mining projects to boost growth. 

Sharma adds, “such projects can be extremely disruptive to the fragile ecosystems that snow leopard’s call home. It’s critical for the snow leopard that they be well-planned to avoid damage.”

On 23 October every year, International Snow Leopard Day is observed.

(With inputs from The Guardian , WWF)

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