Today’s Kathmandu Post reports good news that the number of snow leopards has increased in the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) in eastern Nepal, where Mt Kanchenjunga, the world’s third largest mountain rises on the Indian border. Ananda Gautam reports –
“The population of snow leopard inside KCA has gone up with the introduction of livestock insurance programs that indemnify domesticated animals against the attack of the large wild cat.
KCA management had launched the insurance program two years ago to discourage villagers from killing snow leopards in the name of protecting their cattle. The campaign was successful and effective in limiting snare-deaths of snow leopards, listed as an endangered species.
“We don’t have any incident of a snow leopard being killed these days which is a good news for these animals,” said Himali Chundak, president of Snow Leopard Conservation Committee.
Currently, there are at least 45 snow leopards in KCA. The last year’s census had put the animal’s population at 32.
“The growth in the population of snow leopard is definitely due to the insurance policy, no doubt about it,” said Sujit Kumar Shrestha, manager of Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project. Earlier, villagers used to set up snares to capture and kill these protected wild cats to exact revenge for killing their cattle.
The conservation project had initially established a revolving fund of Rs. 1.2 million (US$25,000) to start the livestock program. Livestock owners had contributed Rs. 55 (US$1.25) for each number of animals they owned. Under the program, a villager is entitled to receive Rs. 2,500 (US$50) if a snow leopard killed his cattle.
Introduced only at Ghunsa region in the beginning, the program was later adopted in all the areas where snow leopards are found.
“The idea was very effective and the villagers were really cooperative. This helped us a lot to conserve snow leopards,” Shrestha said.