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.


Snow Leopard Network –globally collaborating on the survival of snow leopards in the wild

September 16, 2009

A few weeks ago I did a post on Rana Bayakci,the Program Coordinator for the Snow Leopard Network (SLN) in Seattle, USA and how she worked with Gregor the snow leopard at Woodland Park Zoo before he came to Melbourne where we all fell under his spell.

I wanted to share a bit of information about the Network as it does so much great work on snow leopard conservation. It’s really an inspiration for how people who share the same goal can achieve so much through global collaboration.

Rana, who started with the SLN in 2008 says “The main goal of our organisation is to implement the Snow Leopard Survival Strategy (SLSS), which was co-authored by several members of the SLN. The SLSS is a strategy for saving the endangered snow leopard through research, conservation actions, and establishing government action plans in snow leopard range countries.

“We started with 65 founding members in 2002 and we’ve grown to 324 members and counting, including 27 organisational members! Our membership includes leading snow leopard experts in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. “Our members are involved with all aspects of snow leopard research, conservation and education. They include 42 “affiliate” members who might not work directly in snow leopard conservation but are very interested in contributing to snow leopard conservation work.

“We would like to expand our membership to include everyone involved in snow leopard conservation in order to increase communication and continue to develop and share effective conservation, education, and research strategies.”

Rana is one of only two staff members of The SLN with Executive Director being Dr. Tom McCarthy (see my earlier post and video of Tom discussing snow leopard conservation in Kyrgyzstan). The rest of the work is done by dedicated volunteers, including the 6 members of the Steering Committee.

One of the important services the SLN provides its members is the Snow Leopard Bibliography, a database of scholarly articles on snow leopards, their habitat and research. I can imagine sharing knowledge of snow leopard behaviours, ecology etc amongst researchers helps all of them learn more and hopefully come up with better conservation strategies for the future of the animals and people sharing their habitat.

The SLN also hosts the annual Snow Leopard Conservation Grant Program, which supports education, research, or conservation projects on snow leopards.

You can see more about the SLN and join here.

August 25, 2009
Gregor at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Rana Bayrakci.

Gregor at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Rana Bayrakci.

Recently I was in touch with Rana Bayakci, the Program Coordinator for the Snow Leopard Network (SLN) in Seattle, USA.  And what a coincidence!

Turns out Rana was a Keeper at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in the early 1990’s when she met Gregor, our beautiful male snow leopard who was at Melbourne Zoo for many years until his sad death last year aged 20 years. 

Gregor - yawning at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Rana Bayrakci.

Gregor - yawning at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Rana Bayrakci.

Gregor was one of the very first snow leopards Rana worked with when she started as a Keeper at Woodland Park. Rana, like many of us, fell in love with Gregor, his sister Katrina (who didn’t live very long), and his parents, Alex and Andrei. This was the family of snow leopards, Rana says, that put her on the path of snow leopard conservation work. 

In 1996, Rana actually visited Gregor at Melbourne Zoo and to her delight he remembered her. She says “it was wonderful to see him, he remembered me, the keepers just loved him, and he had a great perch right outside their break/office room window.”

Rana very kindly sent me some photos of Gregor from that time – he was as beautiful and full of personality then as we remember him.

Snow Leopard Network

December 9, 2008
Snow Leopard Network logo

Snow Leopard Network logo

The Snow Leopard Network is a worldwide organization dedicated to facilitating the exchange of information between individuals around the world for the purpose of snow leopard conservation. Membership includes leading snow leopard experts in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

The main goal of this organization is to implement the Snow Leopard Survival Strategy (SLSS), which offers a comprehensive analysis of the issues facing snow leopard conservation today.

The SLN also maintains a Snow Leopard Bibliography which provides  members with access to scholarly articles on snow leopards and related conservation issues.