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From revenge to protection

Himali and other villagers from the local Snow Leopard Conservation Committee set up camera traps to catch snow leopards on camera. © WWF-Nepal

I’d like to share this story from a WWF snow leopard conservationist in Kanchenjunga region of Nepal. It shows first hand the tough relationship between villagers and snow leopards that can often end tragically for the cats. But this story has a wonderful outcome and shows how snow leopards and villagers can live together.

Himali Chungda Sherpa is a champion for the snow leopard. But he didn’t start out that way. Long before he was chairman of the local Snow Leopard Conservation Committee, Himali sought his own revenge against these mountain cats.

When Himali was a young boy, his parents sent him into the pasture to care for the family’s herd of yaks. Early one morning, he discovered three calves were missing.

After hours and hours of looking for his calves, he caught a glimpse of the animals from high on a rocky ridge. Himali scrambled down to the spot, only to find scraps of his calves remained. Next to them were three full-bellied snow leopard cubs. Their mother had killed the calves to feed her young.

 “At that moment, I was so angry that all I could think of was revenge,” recalls Himali. In a fit of anger he scooped the cubs into a sack and threw them in the river.

Kanchenjunga on Nepali India border. This region is home to snow leopards now being protected by villagers and WWF funded support.

That night he heard the mother snow leopard crying for her children from up in the high mountains. In the pasture below, his yak was longing for her calves.

“It was then that I realized what a sin I had committed. I promised never to harm a snow leopard again,” says Himali. “Today, my passion is to save them.”  

Himali and others are now at the forefront of community-led efforts to save snow leopards. WWF supports their work by training them to survey and monitor snow leopards. We also help the community promote wildlife ecotourism and find solutions that benefit both people and snow leopards.     Read more about WWF snow leopard work.


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