Wednesday, June 15, 2011

King of the Mountain: The Snow Leopard Conservancy

Snow Leopard Conservancy logo
Some conservation organizations like the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust start because someone sees how human devastation affects flora/fauna globally.  Other organizations were founded by people who are extremely familiar with one species (often researchers who study the species) who discover they cannot watch impassively while their study species plummets towards extinction.  Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) is the latter type.  Rodney Jackson is a head snow leopard Panthera (Uncia) uncia researcher so he knows better than anyone how precarious their continued existence is and how many threats face them.  Fortunately, Rodney understands those threats and has unlimited drive.  Rodney founded SLC and has devoted himself to alleviating threats against snow leopards.

Snow leopard habitat is among the most inaccessible terrain globally: towering Himalayan mountainsides.  This habitat preference makes finding and studying them incredibly difficult, because humans are much less agile upon sheer mountain faces than snow leopards and snow leopard camouflage also helps them disappear against their natural rocky home's backdrop.  I do not have any idea how the researchers manage so successfully given the arduous conditions but they do.  The terrain also makes it harder for civilization to encroach and the area where snow leopards live is among the least densely populated globally.  It is not entirely unpopulated however, and sheep/goat herders comprise most human populations within areas overlapping snow leopards.  Since snow leopards predate herd mammals, there are conflicts between snow leopards and local herders.  SLC helps local people make their night corrals predator-proof, which eliminates the snow leopards' threat to their livestock, which then eliminates the reason locals want them gone.

But SLC doesn't just build livestock corrals; they determine snow leopards' biggest threats (which also include native prey loss & illegal leopard trade) and their solutions through scientific surveys.  SLC promoting ecotourism potential among local groups, boosting the local economy through local wildlife diversity.  This is something which further encourages local populations to preserve snow leopards and their natural prey.  They also provide local people education concerning snow leopards, children particularly.  SLC knows that only through getting local people pro snow leopard can there be success saving snow leopards, and there is no reason why snow leopards can't help the local populace while people simultaneously help them.  People living in harmony among wildlife is possible, and should be all conservation efforts' end goal.

SLC does great work, but need help to continue their work and expand their reach.  The people who run SLC are an extremely dedicated group who are very serious about spending every penny raised saving the snow leopards.  I have worked among zoo snow leopards myself so can understand their dedication- snow leopards are absolutely amazing animals.  Do send a donation, purchase some snow leopard wine, books, cards, or posters, or even take a trip and see snow leopards yourself!  It will be money well spent and won't be regretted.  This is not a hopeless task and SLC is winning, but need help making it happen.  Every little bit makes the planet a better place.

Want to see photos or videos of snow leopards?  Want to read more about them?  Check out these links/books:

Vanishing Tracks: Four Years Among the Snow Leopards of Nepal by Darla Hillard
Written by the Snow Leopard Conservancy's Education, Administration, & Development Director, Darla Hillard's Vanishing Tracks: Four Years Among the Snow Leopards of Nepal details being involved in the field work of some of the folks at the Trust.

Handbook of the Mammals of the World volume 1 Carnivores
The Handbook of the Mammals of the World, volume 1 Carnivores is an amazing book.  It is extremely pricey, but if you want to know about all of the carnivores on the planet today there is currently no better book out there.

Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids by David Macdonald and Andrew Loveridge
The Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids by David Macdonald and Andrew Loveridge is a must have if you are interested in cat conservation or biology.

Fading Footprints: The Killing and Trade of Snow Leopards by Stephanie Theile
You can download the IUCN report Fading Footprints: The Killing and Trade of Snow Leopards by Stephanie Theile and TRAFFIC from their publications site.
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  1. Just a personal insight: You'll never meet people more dedicated than Rodney Jackson, Darla Hillard and their team - and you won't meet anyone who can put every scent to the best use in saving snow leopards. Truly remarkable, like the snow leopards themselves.

  2. Snow leopard looks so cool! Dogs are great too!

  3. I agree- I'll be covering some excellent wild canid organizations as well, but in the meantime you can find some great ones working with WildlifeDirect so check them out, it's a great site!

  4. I like to read about wild life..your article is very nice and the pictures of Snow leopard are just awesome.. plz keep writing..thank u.