Saving sheep from snow leopards, saves the snow leopards

May 24, 2009
Snow leopard proof corral. Photo Snow Leopard Conservancy

Snow leopard proof corral. Photo Snow Leopard Conservancy

When snow leopards kill domestic livestock in the villages of the Himalayas they are usually then hunted and killed by the owners in retaliation. It’s easy to understand why villagers would do this. Often these sheep and goats are the only livelihood they have, representing meat and money without which they and their families would starve.

Snow leopard proof corral in Pakistan. Photo by Snow Leopard Conservancy

Snow leopard proof corral in Pakistan. Photo by Snow Leopard Conservancy

About 10 years ago many of the conservation agencies working with villagers realised that there was a simple solution to this problem – building better snow leopard proof corrals. Although the idea is simple, the tools and material like cyclone wire are relatively expensive and so donated by the agencies working with village people. With co-operative planning the Snow Leopard Conservancy for example, investigated the existing predator proof strategies of villagers in India and Pakistan.

They’ve come up with solutions that meet local needs and completed over 30 corrals (livestock pens) throughout northern India since the program began, serving over 200 households and over 3,000 head of livestock. Now that the xorrals have proper doors, windows and roofs made of wire mesh the snow leopards are no longer able to get into them. This story shows us another example of the potential for snow leopards and people to live side by side in a shared habitat.

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ABC Foreign Correspondent program on snow leopards

April 30, 2009

The ABC’s Eric Campbell has trekked through the high altitude Hemis National Park where I did the Earthwatch Snow Leopard Project in 1998. He’s made a program for Foreign Correspondent to be screened on Tuesday 5th May at 8pm on ABC.

Eric Campbell Foreign Correspondent ABC

Eric Campbell Foreign Correspondent ABC

This part of northern India is now being called  “snow leopard heaven” because of the conservation programs supporting the cats, their prey species and the local villagers living there. The work being done here could be a template for saving big cats around the world. It’s a dramatic and remote landscape where people still largely survive off subsistence agriculture, as they have for centuries. There are no roads, and virtually no mod cons. Many villagers have just a few hours of solar power each day, and use animal dung to heat their homes and cook. ABC Foreign Correspondent

Campbell meets local farmers who are being trained to use remote control cameras to track the leopards. They’re also given assistance to construct predator proof pens for their livestock. Women can now earn money by providing food and accommodation for trekkers. And the farmers are educating school children about biodiversity.

Attitudes have changed, and snow leopards are now valued and protected.

There is also an interview with film maker Mitchell Kelly who was the first person to film snow leopards hunting and mating in the wild. (See Video clip from Mitchell’s film “Silent Roar” on the Video page of this Blog).