by Sibylle on August 20, 2012

Snow Leopard. Photo WWF.Welcome to resources and news on how local communities and conservationists are saving the endangered snow leopard and protecting its Central Asian mountain habitat.

Keen to help save endangered snow leopards?  Get involved here.

Vale Peter Matthiessen 1927-2014.

Vale Peter Matthiessen 1927-2014.

Vale Peter Matthiessen, writer, naturalist, fisherman, novelist, environmentalist, wildlife advocate, adventurer and so much more, who has passed away at age 86.

His thoughful, warm and lyrical book “The Snow Leopard” did so much to bring our beautiful cats from behind a mystical shroud out into the world. The book tells of his month long search for the snow leopard one frozen winter in Dolpo, Nepal, as he joins George Schaller on expedition. He writes poignantly of his wife’s recent death from cancer and his quest for a higher Zen awareness.
This beautiful book did much to introduce me to the people of the high Himalayas and to inspire me to work for snow leopard advocacy and conservation. I will always be thankful to Peter for that.
Peter never did see the snow leopard but wrote so beautifully in this book – “That the snow leopard is, that it is here, that its frosty eyes watch us from the mountains – that is enough.”
Read more at New York Times

May Peter roam with the snow leopards forever in the far realms of the high Asian mountains.

Snow leopard caught on remote camera trap in Afghanistan. Photo WCS.

Snow leopard caught on remote camera trap in Afghanistan. Photo WCS.

The Afghanistan Government has just declared the country’s second national park, the entire Wakhan district in the remote northeast.

And like the first national park, Band-e Amir (designated in 2009) this one will also help protect the remaining endangered snow leopards in this country.

The Wakhan District, bordered by Pakistan to the south, China to the east, and Tajikistan to the north, has for centuries been a strategic area for the movement of many ethnic peoples and the centre of political intrigue. Today it still has huge wildlife diversity with snow leopard, wolves, red foxes, Marco Polo sheep, brown bears, lynx, Himalayan ibex and urial. Recently even the elusive Pallas cat was discovered here. LINK

A community of Kyrgyz herders with their domestic sheep and goats in Wakhan District, now a National Park. Photo Mathew Paley, Nat Geo.

A community of Kyrgyz herders with their domestic sheep and goats in Wakhan District, now a National Park. Photo Mathew Paley, Nat Geo.

I was extremely lucky to have been able to travel through this beautiful place in the late 1970’s, travelling by local buses where the Hindu Kuch and the Pamir Mountains meet. The hospitality of the people was extraordinary and the mountain scenery awe inspiring.

Today large communities of Wakhi people (over 13,000) still live side by side with small communities of ethnic Kyrgyz (1500 or so), all reliant on small scale vegetable farming and livestock rearing of domestic sheep, goats, horses and yaks, on which they rely for milk, cheese, meat and transport.



A Wakhi woman in her beautiful clothes and jewellery. Photo Rebecca Cole.

A Wakhi woman in her beautiful clothes and jewellery. Photo Rebecca Cole.

The Afghan government worked with the New York based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in collaboration with local groups to forge partnerships resulting in the national park. Like many national parks in this part of the world, the traditional communities will continue to live in the area. They will follow traditional livelihoods while at the same benefiting from improved services and sustainable job opportunities like rangers and park managers. In time there may even be income generated from tourism as the region currently gets between 100-300 travellers a year.

Prince Mostapha Zaher, the director-general of Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency, called it “one of the last truly wild places on the planet.” He said his grandfather, King Zaher Shah, had first dreamed of creating a national park in the area in the 1950s.

“We can prove that the cause of protecting the environment and wildlife can also be utilized as an instrument of peace and tolerance,” said Zaher.

Dr Peter Zahler, WCS Asia Program Deputy Director, said: “We are delighted by this historic event. Wakhan National Park will protect over 70 percent of snow leopard habitat in Afghanistan, and it will bring desperately needed services to some of the poorest and most isolated people in the country. It also shows Afghanistan’s continued commitment to fulfilling its global obligations to protect its biodiversity and determination to move forward and realize a bright future for the country.

Traders in Wakhan distric in winer Photo Mathew Paley Nat Geo

The harshness of winter. Traders battle snow bound narrow tracks in Wakhan distric to get from one community to another. Photo by Mathew Paley Nat Geo.

The Wakhan corridor, Dr Zahler says, is “extremely safe—as safe as any high-mountain area can be.” The region has not seen recent violence, the Taliban “has no interest in it,” and the people “are very welcoming. Still, that success may hinge on Afghanistan’s overall stability.”

Read more about snow leopard research and conservation in Afghanistan including the first radio collaring of wild snow leopards and the first camera photos of snow leopards in the Wakhan district.

Read about status of snow leopards in Afghanistan.



Interview with Dr. Shafqat Hussain, anthropologist and snow leopard conservationist

March 27, 2014 Community-based conservation

Shafqat Hussain was born in Pakistan and is the founder of Project Snow Leopard(PSL). This week he kindly agreed to share some of his insights into future directions for  snow leopard conservation and his work in Pakistan over the last 15 years with “Saving Snow Leopards”. Shafqat is trained in social and political ecology and […]

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“Kuzuzangbola” to snow leopards in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan

March 5, 2014 Bhutan

Kuzuzangbola  is “hello” in Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan. Our friends at the Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) have launched a new trip with their partner, KarmaQuestaimed at eco travellers interested in supporting snow leopard conservation in beautiful Bhutan. For many years KarmaQuest has been at the forefront of snow leopard treks in Ladakh in […]

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Wildleaks – a whistle-blower tool for wildlife crimes

February 27, 2014 Illegal wildlife trade

A new website was launched this month by environmentalists that allows people to anonymously report wildlife crimes. The illegal wildlife trade is huge across the globe, estimated at $US19 billion annually and often supported by organised crime. Yet it is probably the most underfunded criminal activity in terms of investigation and law enforcement. Sadly tackling […]

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What is Pakistan doing for its snow leopards?

February 21, 2014 Pakistan

Pakistan has an estimated 200-400 snow leopards. See the new updated Pakistan page to read about – what threats are snow leopards facing in Pakistan? what are the challenges for local people to share their habitat with snow leopards? which conservation agencies and experts are working in Pakistan to help snow leopards and support local […]

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Love snow leopards? This book is for you

February 19, 2014 Books

We blogged about it when it first came out but we are reading it again and want to share the experience. Adventure and danger in the remote high altitudes of Central Asia. An elusive big cat that doesn’t want to be seen. A beautiful, magical cat. An extraordinary cat. In the world of biology they […]

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Help for snow leopards in a city far away – the London Declaration.

February 15, 2014 Illegal wildlife trade

Officials and heads of state from 46 countries and 11 UN organisations took part in a historic summit yesterday (13th February 2014) and signed the London Declaration each committing to stop wildlife poaching. All governments agreed the illegal wildlife trade, which is estimated at $US19b per year, must be treated as a serious crime. The […]

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Snow leopard helps find other rare cat in Nepal

February 14, 2014 Camera traps

A team of snow leopard researchers in the Annapurna Area Conservation Project (ACAP) got pictures of a very rare cat, the Pallas cat, when they looked at results from 11 remote camera traps set out at over 4000 metres in the beautiful Himalayan region of the Annapurna. Bikram Shrestha, the Coordinator of Snow Leopard Conservancy […]

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Protecting snow leopards at the front line

February 11, 2014 Illegal hunting

In the mountains of Kyrgyzstan Joldoshbek Akunov, the team leader of the snow leopard anti-poaching unit called the Gruppa Bars is going about his work. He joined the team in 201. Before joining the German wildlife organisation, NABU which set up the Gruppa Bars, Joldoshbek studied geography and worked as a surveyor and journalist in […]

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