Herdsmen in China sentenced to prison for killing snow leopard

March 8, 2010

BBC News has reported the following story. “Two herdsmen have been sentenced to eight and 10 years in prison for killing a snow leopard in northwest China’s Xinjiang region.
China’s state news agency Xinhua quoted local authorities saying the men had set a trap after wild animals had been preying on their sheep. When a snow leopard was trapped, they stoned it to death and gave its fur, bones and internal organs to others.
The wildlife protection office of Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture confirmed that the animal they killed was a snow leopard, said Yang Jianwei, a publicity official of Manas County Committee of the Communist Party of China, where the men were convicted.
Xinhua reported that five suspects who had allegedly killed two snow leopards were arrested in January this year by the Public Security Bureau of Luntai County, Xinjiang. Four people were sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing and selling four snow leopards on 19 November 2008.”

It’s good to see China enforcing its laws on the illegal killing of snow leopards but it would be so much better if education helped people understand they shouldn’t kill them in the first place. Sadly a no-win for the herdsmen and a no-win for the snow leopards.

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China still trading illegal snow leopard skins

October 28, 2009

EIA logoThe Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) recently conducted undercover investigations into the illegal big cat skin and bone trade in China and found it easy to get tiger, snow leopard and other leopard skins.

‘China has really run out of excuses. They tell us they are doing their best, but we have been warning them about this for years and there are still huge gaps in their enforcement effort. If they can put a man into space, they can do more to save the wild tiger’, said Debbie Banks, Lead Campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency.

The EIA team did three weeks of undecover work during July and August this year and captured the illegal trade on film using a hidden camera while they enquired about animal skins on sale. During this time they were offered 11 snow leopard skins as well as many other cat parts. In a sad video the sellers show skins from Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. “We can get you anything you want,” they say.

While buying and selling any big cat parts is definitely illegal in China it seems a lot of this activity is actually not too difficult to find in many parts of China including Tibet. Researchers found local officials in the vicinity of the shops trading the illegal goods and people at a horse festival in Tibet openly wearing skins in view of local authorities.

The EIA believes that the skins are less in demand from Tibetans themselves these days – perhaps the plea from the Dalai Lama in 2006 for Tibetans to stop wearing skins of endangered animals has worked. But demand from middle class and wealthy Chinese business people, army personell and government officials has not dropped. The skins are bought for home décor or clothing in Tibet and China, costing huge amounts of money that more people can now afford. A snow leopard skins costs around $US2200.

According to the EIA the illegal trade is organised by extensive criminal networks. ‘There is some law enforcement in China, in a few regions, but there are whole swathes of the country where this trade is allowed to carry on with almost no fear of detection. A mixture of corruption and apathy is helping to decimate endangered species and is indicative of what is happening to the wider environment,’ said Alasdair Cameron of EIA.

The EIA has provided the Chinese government with this sort of evidence for over 5 years but there appears so much localised corruption that little has changed.

The Environmental Investigation Agency is a UK-based Non Government Organisation that investigates and campaigns against environmental crime including illegal wildlife trade.

See BBC story and video here.

India Today imageSee interview with Debbie Banks from India Today TV.


Wild snow leopard released

June 11, 2009
Wild snow leopard about to be released in China. Photo Xinhua

Wild snow leopard about to be released in China. Photo Xinhua

A female snow leopard was released back into the wild in northwest China this week after receiving care for a respiratory tract infection. She hesitated a few seconds after the cage was opened, then rushed to the woods without looking back at the people in the wildlife protection group who had taken care of her since she was found 6 weeks ago.  “She was exhausted and panting when she was found. We believed she was too sick to hunt from an infection and so she came into the village to look for food,” said Zhao Chongxue, a researcher with the Gansu Endangered Animal Research Center.  Staff added medicine to food and water for the snow leopard for 10 days essentially curing her, Zhao added.
The animal is listed as endangered in China, the same level as the giant panda. Full article Snow Leopard Network.

A good news story, let’s hope the local population can help protect her from poachers who may have been following the news. According to the Research Center staff, the area where they released her is ideal snow leopard habitat, sparsely populated and a lot of prey species.


In the field – research in Xinjiang, China

February 28, 2009
alimujan-xianjiang-china-project

Photo by Xinjiang Snow Leopard Project

The Xinjiang Snow Leopard Project (XSLP) is an initiative started by the Beijing Forestry University and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at Oxford University. You can read about the project on their website –

The team is working closely with the Xinjiang Government and local communities to research what’s happening with snow leopards and their prey in the Taxkurgan Nature Reserve of West Xinjiang.

The last published information about snow leopard numbers in this area is from the 1980s where George Schaller estimated in one of the local communities that there were between 50 and 75 snow leopards. This project is really important to see what has happened to the snow leopards here in the last 20 odd years. They already know from sightings by local herders that there are snow leopards still in the area and the 2009 work will help to establish numbers and impacts on local herder communities.

The team is keeping a blog of the project. Check it out here