It’s Animals month for Jolkona’s Give Together campaign, with three animal-friendly options for our growing community’s September donations. Our first partner spotlight is on the Snow Leopard Trust, which works to protect this endangered species through research and community outreach programs.
What’s the story behind your project?
Snow leopards are one of the least well understood of the big cats. Truly protecting them will require a deeper understanding of their needs. What food do they prefer, and how much do they need to survive? What habitat features are needed to allow mothers to successfully raise their cubs? These questions can only be answered with strong science. Snow Leopard Trust is undertaking the most in-depth scientific study to answer these questions. By carefully fitting a few snow leopards with GPS tracking collars, researchers are learning new information each year. For instance, a cat names Ariun recently expanded the largest area we thought possible for a cat to regularly monitor. And after a female named Agnes recently gave birth, we were able to witness a visit to the den site by the suspected father – an event never expected or previously recorded.
While more information is needed to protect these cats, it is not enough. The cats’ large ranges mean that they regularly interact with communities that share their mountain home. This often leads to conflict, as impoverished herding families often are driven to hunt snow leopards who threaten their livestock. The Trust works to protect snow leopards by working directly with communities. In some communities, the Trust helps women produce and sell handicrafts that can help them weather losses to their livestock. In exchange, they commit to protecting the cats. In other communities, the Trust has helped establish insurance programs so that herders can insure their livelihoods.
What kind of lasting change can this project have?
Solid scientific understanding will support stronger conservation of snow leopards and other high mountain carnivores throughout central asia. And the education and community programs are increasing the acceptance of snow leopards in the herding communities. In short, the Trust is working to save a species. Our hope is that the cats will recover their populations, and remain in their mountainous home for our children to appreciate.
We love stories at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite impact story you can share?
Right now, we are tracking a new mother named Agnes. Her new cub was just born in the summer. But Agnes is not a first-time mother. A previous cub, Dagina, is also wearing a GPS collar. Dagina and her cub live not far from Agnes. The fact that generations of snow leopards are helping researchers understand snow leopard activities and reproduction makes me hopeful that we’ll be able to learn enough to save this fragile species.
Another story I love is about Shonkhor, a snow leopard who ate a number of sheep and goats, then guarded his meals avidly. Instead of harming him, the herder sought the help of Trust staff. Together, they were able to get Shonkhor to leave the herder’s land, and help get the herder into a livestock insurance program. The story shows the ability of people to take a situation of conflict, and find a resolution that respects both animals and people.
In a nutshell, why should our Give Together members support your project?
Someone should give to this project if they care about wildlife and people too. This project is a wonderful mix of wildlife conservation and community development. Beautiful animals benefit, and so do people struggling to live alongside them.
This is one post in our ongoing Partner Spotlight series. When you sign up to join Give Together, you can choose to allocate your September contribution to the Snow Leopard Trust or one of our other animal-related projects.