Sad end

March 8, 2010

Captured snow leopard in Afghanistan. Photo by Richard Fite. Story USA Today.

As humans we’re always looking for the positive in a story. We have to look pretty deep to get a positive from this horrible story from Afghanistan this week. Some conservationists are saying it shows that local Afghans are more protective of snow leopards now – lets hope so. But the sad death of this animal was pretty shocking.

At the end of February a German civilian heard about a possible snow leopard for sale for $50,000. Richard Fite, a senior agricultural advisor with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, currently stationed in Afghanistan, said he became involved when an official in the Afghanistan National Environmental Protection Agency (ANEPA) did the right thing and contacted police.

When Fite saw the snow leopard it was in terrible condition

It “had been snared, had all four legs bound together, and was transported by truck for at least 2-3 days over a terrible road in cold damp weather, poked and prodded by many, held in captivity for a week.”

“For a normally solitary, wild animal, the mental stress would have been just unimaginable.  When I first saw the animal, on its fourth or fifth day of captivity, it was already in trouble — quite passive and subdued.  During the next two days, it became progressively more so.”

Fite worked with international and local officials to provide aid in the form of heavy mittens, an improvised rabies pole, an electric heater and medical supplies for the animal’s treatment. The Aria Guest House in Feyzabad, provided a secluded location for the cat.  It also provided food, staff, and a small propane heater. USAID organised a helicopter to transport the leopard back to the Wakhan corridor once it was healthy.

Sadly, despite everyone’s great efforts, the snow leopard died.

“It seemed to respond to subcutaneous fluids given the afternoon of the second day, but died early the following morning.” Full story here.

In a letter to the Snow Leopard Network members Fite said,  ” the final outcome of course is not what we all wished but on the positive side, I note that this incident generated a great amount of publicity for snow leopards in Afghanistan and that interest in this animal reached all the way to the highest levels of the Afghan government and the U.S. Embassy.  Perhaps that, at least, is a good sign for the future.”

Thankyou to ALL those people who desperately tried to save this animal.


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.

Indian kids camping out in tents and learning about their mountain environment

February 21, 2010

Kids in Spiti, northern India, learning about their Himalayan environment with Snow Leopard Trust and Nature Conservation Foundation India program. Photo Snow Leopard Trust Blog.

Every year the Snow Leopard Trust and the Nature Conservation Foundation India take high school kids on learning camps in the Spiti Valley of the Himalayas. The kids, who rarely do this sort of thing, get to live in tents and learn about the plants and animals (including snow leopards), which share their environment. The Trust has been doing this since 2007 and over 400 school children and 30 teachers have participated.

Read more about their experiences and comments from the kids on the Snow Leopard Trust blog.

Happy New Year of the Snow Leopard!

February 16, 2010

Happy New Year of the snow leopard ('bar' in Russian)

I’ve received a lovely email from Oleg Loginov, Director of the Snow Leopard Fund Kazakhstan who tells me while the Chinese now celebrate Year of the Tiger, in Kazakhstan and other parts of Central Asia they are celebrating this as year of the Snow Leopard. Go Snow Leopards! By the way, in this part of the world snow leopards are called Bars!

It’s estimated there are between 100 – 200 snow leopards in Kazakhstan and Oleg’s SL Fund will do research and conservation and education work to help protect them. We hope it will be a wonderful year for snow leopard conservation and that many more people will learn to love and support this cat in the wild.

It’s not a snow leopard

February 12, 2010

Recently I received video of what appeared to be a snow leopard in Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan taken by a young sergeant in the US Army. Several experts kindly commented their opinions through the Snow Leopard Network and my Blog, some thought it was a snow leopard and others raised the question as to whether it was another animal.

Today Tom McCarthy,  Ph.D. and Director of Snow Leopard Programs, PANTHERA, and George Schaller (world’s leading expert on snow leopards!) have established that it’s a yellow-throated marten and not a snow leopard.

Y a s h  V e e r  B h a t n a g a r,  P h. D. and Director, Snow Leopard Trust-India also suggested it wasn’t a snow leopard and he was right too.

Those of us with less experience but a lot of passion to conserve this beautiful animal were (and are) obviously hoping for evidence that snow leopards are surviving in this war zone.

We didn’t get the evidence this time but I couldn’t agree more with Ashiq Ahmad Khan (Chairman Steering Committee, SLN) and Safdar Ali Shah (NWFP Wildlife Department) that it’s important to work towards a “a trans border nation park to ensure protection of the snow leopard and other allied species before it is too late.”

Thanks also to Carl for looking out for snow leopards and wanting to be active in their conservation. We hope one day people in the field like him may see many snow leopards in this region if our conservation efforts can be successful.

February 10, 2010

Orjan, with cute animal -not snow leopard! -back on the Snow Leopard Trust's Mongolia project. Photo from SLT Blog.

Orjan is a Swedish PhD student working at the base camp of the Snow Leopard Trust’s long-term research project in Mongolia. Last year he blogged about his work capturing, collaring and collecting valuable data from five of the wild cats.

The last few months he’s been away from the project but is now back for another six months of work adventures. Follow him as he blogs about snow leopards, Mongolia, the people, the culture, the freezing climate …and Chinese police dogs….on the Snow Leopard Trust’s Blog .

“My grandmother says”….a story of snow leopards

January 13, 2010

"My grandma says" childrens book about snow leopards.A few years ago after I returned from a trek in the Mustang region of western Nepal with a wonderful guide, Binod Rana, he introduced me to his brother, Dipak. Dipak was doing community work and fundraising for a school in a village in the Langtang region and I wondered what I could do to help. One afternoon I went to that fabulous Kathmandu institution, Pilgrim’s Bookstore in Thamel…boy can I spend time and money there!

Anyway I found a beautiful book called “My grandmother says” about a young girl looking after wild snow leopards and helping to educate her friends about snow leopards in Nepal. This lovely little book was produced with the help of the Snow Leopard Conservancy and published in English and Nepali. I had a great idea. I bought a hundred copies and gave them to the village school. Dipak told me the kids loved them.

It turns out the Snow Leopard Conservancy has now produced another edition in English, Chinese and Tibetan. It would make a beautiful gift for any young child. The drawings are lovely and the story an inspiring one about young people and caring for their environment. If you have some young children in your life or are a teacher they would be an enjoyable read and a learninge experience. You can purchase the book from the Conservancy here.