New program for snow leopard conservation

The BBC Wildlife Fund (BBCWF) and the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) are teaming up with the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) to launch a new program aimed at securing a healthy population of snow leopards across Asia. Snow leopards are one of the most endangered big cats in the world. They are found across 12 Asian and Eurasian nations from Afghanistan to Bhutan, and experts believe that as few as 3,500 may still exist in the wild. WFN and NCF will focus on China, Mongolia and India—the three countries with the highest concentrations of the species.

This joint project will focus on empowering local communities in each country to adopt a series of conservation measures, including environmental education, community‐based wildlife monitoring, anti‐poaching programmes, and cross‐collaboration between regional and national government offices. The project will be implemented together with leading national conservationists based at NCF, Shan Shui and Peking University in China, and the Snow Leopard Conservation Fund in Mongolia. The Snow Leopard Trust (SLT), recognized as the global leader in snow leopard conservation, will also participate in the project. The BBC Wildlife Fund is providing nearly £60,000 ($90,000 US) over the next two years in this program for conservation in regions critical to the survival of the snow leopard.

“This is the first large, multi‐country project of its kind for snow leopards,” says Dr. Charudutt Mishra, Trustee of NCF and Science and Conservation Director of the SLT, “and it’s a huge leap forward for the species.” Snow leopards are still relatively new to the conservation scene. The first photograph of a wild snow leopard wasn’t captured until the 1970s, and targeted efforts to protect the cats didn’t begin until the 1980s. Snow leopard conservation has lagged behind big campaigns like those set up for tigers, but Dr. Mishra hopes this project will change all that and says “with WFN, BBC and our other partners, we can finally produce the kind of in‐depth, multifaceted conservation systems necessary to save these cats.”

Georgina Domberger, Director of WFN, believes the project has global impact, one of the factors that gained WFN’s support: “It’s great to say you’re going to protect an endangered species—but what does that mean? We can’t save all of them at once, but we are coming up with a way to protect some of the most important population centres we can, and then we hope to build outwards from there.” WFN is also excited because they, like NCF, view snow leopards as a flagship species able to streamline and lead larger efforts in critical habitats. Domberger says “we all love snow leopards for their beauty and charisma, and since they are at the top of the wildlife pyramid, we know helping them will help the entire ecosystem.”

A press release about the program is available here [PDF].

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