Snow Leopards are an endangered big cat, native to the mountain ranges of Central and Southern Asia.
Their numbers have been in steep decline throughout recent years. A new project, however, aims to increase the population by 2020.
Snow Leopards have been monitored for years, and this isn’t the first time that efforts have been made to protect them. As reported in The Dodo back in 2014, it was estimated that there were less than 7,000 of the animals living in the wild. “Of these, an elusive 350 to 500 live in Nepal, spending their time prowling the heights of the Himalayas. Although many of these cats live in Annapurna Conservation Area, an almost 3,000-square-mile protected preserve. On the Tibetan side, camera traps recently captured 27 photos of the snow leopards — a heartening sight of the cats in habitats that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature notes run “along politically sensitive international borders.””
More recently, Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal stated:
“Snow leopards are the guardians of the water towers and the indicator of the health of the ecosystem. Thus it is not just the responsibility of a handful of snow leopard range nations to protect the snow leopard habitat. It is the need of everyone who needs clean air and water.”
Now, a new statement from the WWF outlines a plan to monitor and increase numbers through a variety of means.
The Snow Leopard Conservation Action Plan 2017-2021 sets the stage for Nepal to achieve its goal of ensuring that at least 100 snow leopards of breeding age populate each three of its landscapes by 2020. This commitment was made under the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), a combined effort of all twelve snow leopard range countries.
The action plan will address the urgent need to continue research and monitoring using cutting-edge technology; improve habitat and corridors; mitigate conflict through community engagement; reduce wildlife crimes; and, strengthen trans-boundary coordination and cooperation. This all-encompassing new plan is estimated to cost $3.15 million.
Man Bahadur Khadka, Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation comments:
“The Snow Leopard Conservation Action Plan 2017-2021 will continue to provide crucial guidance to carry on the good work done by the country in the past decade, supported by its people and organizations like National Trust for Nature Conservation and WWF Nepal.”
The updated action plan has been prepared by a technical team formed by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, with consultations at local to national levels, and interviews with key government officials, partner organizations and individual experts. WWF Nepal provided financial and technical support for the effort.
Earlier this week, the Government of Nepal also presented the status of its climate-integrated landscape management plan to secure snow leopard ecosystem in the Eastern Conservation Landscape*, discussing it with practitioners from the twelve snow leopard range countries. The landscape management plan is informed by geospatial, hydrological and climate models, and shows shifts in snow leopard habitats in various climate change scenarios.
Ghana Shyam Gurung, Senior Conservation Director for WWF Nepal, comments:
“Together, these two plans will bolster Nepal’s efforts to ensure that snow leopards thrive, even in the face of complex challenges like climate change. We are honoured to play a key role in this critical government effort and will continue our support to save this beautiful cat.”
The GSLEP steering committee meeting and landscape management planning workshops hosted by Nepal are both geared towards preparation for a Global Snow Leopard Summit of the twelve range nations, to be hosted by Kyrgyzstan on September 7 and 8, 2017.
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WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. panda.org for news and information