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Tragic passing of Rinchen Wangchuk

Rinchen Wangchuck, Director of the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust, who passed away this week. Photo SLCIT.

I’ve just received tragic news from the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust that their Director, Rinchen Wangchuk has passed away. Rinchen this week received an Award for Outstanding Achievements in Community-Based Snow Leopard Conservation from the Snow Leopard Conservancy U.S.

Sadly he had been suffering from a motor neuron disease for some time. He leaves behind his wife and two young children.

I’ve been aware of Rinchen’s ground breaking work with local communities for some time but never had the chance to meet him. On my recent trek in Ladakh’s Hemis National Park I met many of his friends and colleagues who spoke about his passion for  educating the people of Ladakh to live in harmony with the snow leopards in this spectacularly beautiful part of the Himalayas. During that trek I was able to spend 8 hours watching a beautiful snow leopard and I know this was largely possible due to Rinchen’s dedication to changing the attitudes of local herders so they value the cats .

My sincere condolences go to Rinchen’s family, his friends and colleagues. I know he will never be forgotten. His vision and his work live on.

{ 25 comments… add one }

  • Laura Palacios March 28, 2011, 4:11 pm

    I.´m seech less, this morning i was reading your article about his award, and now that he died, really sad, hopefully someone will continue his wonderful work, protecting snow leopards, Rest in peace this conservation hero ¡¡¡¡

  • Shael Sharma March 28, 2011, 6:25 pm

    A pioneer of Snow Leopard conservation, Rinchen’s father was the legendary Colonel Wangchuk, founder of Ladakh Scout. Rinchen leaves behind Rigzen, two amazing kids, a son and a daughter. I will always remember him for his plucky bravery, his sense of fairplay and his reserved edgy smile. God bless him for enriching our lives. My thoughts are with his family.

  • Dipender Singh March 28, 2011, 8:44 pm

    I am shocked and cant believe it is true,if it is………Wangchuck as we used to call him is and was a great soul.GOD BLESS HIM,HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

  • Sibylle March 29, 2011, 8:50 am

    thank you for your thoughts, I will pass them onto the Snow Leopar Conservancy in Leh.

  • Sibylle March 29, 2011, 8:53 am

    thank you for your comments about Rinchen and also his father. I will pass them to the Snow Leopard Conservancy in Leh.

  • Rohit Rana March 29, 2011, 2:35 pm

    We will always remember our friend and I will pray to God to give strength to his family, to bear this loss.This is a very sad day for all of us.

  • niti chauhan March 29, 2011, 3:28 pm

    will miss you. good people dont stay long here for sure. you were one of the finest human being i met. god bless you.

  • Pema Tsering March 29, 2011, 4:39 pm

    It is very sad to know about the untimely passing away of one of the greatest conservationist who has dedicated his life in the field of CONSERVATION….especially SNOW LEOPARD…It is a great loss to us….may his soul rest in Peace..

  • Sibylle March 29, 2011, 4:44 pm

    thankyou, I will pass on your message to the family. I’m sure they will appreciate your thoughts.

  • Sibylle March 29, 2011, 4:45 pm

    thankyou Rohit, I will pass on your message to the family. We can see how loved and respected Rinchen was from these messages.

  • Sibylle March 29, 2011, 4:53 pm

    thankyou Pema, I will pass on your message to Rinchen’s family and the Snow Leopard Conservancy in Leh. It is indeed a great loss.

  • Sandeep Bhasin March 29, 2011, 6:11 pm

    he was angel at heart…never carried any bad feelings against any1…let us all dipsites silently pray tht may his soul RIP…our sincere condolences to his family…

  • saurabh das March 30, 2011, 2:32 am

    I will always remember Wangchuk, as we all fondly called him , for his big heart and his lovely smile . He was truly an angel for many of us whose lives he has touched .
    We will always remember him fondly and i pray to god to give strength to his family . He is one of the most genuine souls I have met in my life .

  • M March 30, 2011, 3:21 am

    Dear Sael Sharma,

    Name of Rinchen’s father is Chewang Rinchen. People in Himalayas or say in Tibet or Ladakh do not carry a surname from the family. Yes his father was a legendary hero. I pasting a link below if you want to know more about late Colonel Chewang Rinchen


  • Radhika Kothari March 31, 2011, 12:45 am

    Dear All,

    Thank you for the great words for a great man that Rinchen Wangchuk, Kaale as we called him, was.

    This is a difficult time for us, but your support is well appreciated.

    SLC India Trust Team.

  • Sibylle March 31, 2011, 8:51 am

    Radikha Kothari, the Deputy Director of Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust, has asked me to thank you all for your condolences. She writes –
    “Dear All,
    Thank you for the great words for a great man that Rinchen Wangchuk,
    Kaale as we called him, was.
    This is a difficult time for us, but your support is well appreciated.
    SLC India Trust Team.”

  • Abhinav Chauhan April 2, 2011, 5:52 pm

    Shocking loss to the entire wildlife fraternity. His efforts in integrating wildlife tourism with the welfare of local communities would be remembered forever. My sincere condolences to his family and all my friends at Mountain Initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.

  • Neelu Sharma May 9, 2011, 3:54 pm

    Just very shocking to know about the untimely demise of Rinchen. As part of the workshop organised at Hemis NP in 1999, I had the opportunity to meet him. He had a passion for his work. My sincere condolences to his family and all the people who knew him. Such conservationists need to acknowledged for their work and may be a fellowship for conservation of Snow Leopard in Ladakh, could be initiated.

  • Sibylle May 9, 2011, 4:22 pm

    thank you for your comments, it was indeed very sad. I think your idea of a fellowship is a wonderful idea. I will gladly pass it on to the Snow leopard Conservancy India on your behalf.

  • Neeraj Mahar September 23, 2011, 9:55 pm

    Its socking… a great dedicated man for Snow Leopards…..
    I would like to dedicate my first ever sighting of Snow Leopard in kugti Himachal to him…
    :(… !!!

  • Rigzin Namgyal February 8, 2012, 4:11 am

    Dear Rinchen,

    I often remember you, your friendship, your work, your sense humor… everything is missed everyday,…
    May your soul inspire many more in the spirit of work that you started.

  • Sibylle February 9, 2012, 11:57 am

    thank you for your kind words about Rinchen, he is still sadly missed.

  • Vivek Rishi August 19, 2012, 5:07 am

    This is so shocking! I had met Rinchen thrice in Leh when i had gone there for some work and was very impressed by his passion for his work and friendly nature. Today i tried to find him on facebook and i landed here to the bad news. RIP Rinchen!

  • Sibylle August 19, 2012, 3:04 pm

    Thankyou for your lovely comments on Rinchen, he is sadly missed by family, friends and colleagues. But his vision and work are being continued by the wonderful people at the Snow Leopard Conservancy India. Perhaps you might like to visit them and talk to them when you are in Leh next time, they are a friendly team helping to protect snow leopards in Hemis NP and other parts of Ladakh.

  • colin paterson August 25, 2013, 1:38 pm

    I just watched a show about Leh and Ladakh and tried to search for news of Rinchen Wangchuk and discovered this sad news. I had the pleasure of meeting Rinchen in the Annapurna region in Nepal in 1994. We shared 4 or 5 days together where he told me his story of how he lost some fingers and toes as a teenager as part of an ill-fated attempt to put Rajiv Gandhi’s ashes on Nanda Devi. I took pleasure in meeting Rinchen and introduced him to the music of Bruce Cockburn which he loved. I’ve often thought of Rinchen since those days and hoped to re-connect on a much overdue trip to Leh and Ladakh. If it means anything to Rinchen’s family I want to say how pleased I was to read of his work on Snow Leopard Conservancy. Rinchen I sincerely hope we will meet again in another time and thanks for the days we spent together in September/October 1994.
    With love and respect Sincerely Colin Paterson Perth Australia.

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