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Monks in Tibetan monasteries help snow leopards

SN pic Monks Lhasa sept07 SML

Tibetan monks. Photo by Sibylle Noras.

Nearly half of Tibetan monasteries share snow leopard habitat in the high mountains of the the Tibetan Plateau’s Sanjiangyuan region.

A recent study by Panthera showed “Tibetan Buddhism considers the snow leopard and its habitats strictly sacred, and the monks patrol wild landscapes surrounding monasteries to enforce strict edicts against killing wildlife. Senior monks, including the Rinpoche and Khenpos, are important influencers in their communities, positively impacting followers’ attitudes and behaviour towards wildlife.”

Panthera’s Vice President, Dr. George Schaller, explained, “Buddhism has as a basic tenet the love, respect, and compassion for all living beings. This report illuminates how science and the spiritual values of Tibetan Buddhism can combine their visions and wisdom to help protect China’s natural heritage.”

Led by Dr. Li Juan of Peking University, the Panthera -supported study is “The Role of Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in Snow Leopard Conservation”. It was co-authored by Panthera’s Dr. George Schaller and Dr. Tom McCarthy, the leading Chinese conservation NGO Shan Shui and the Snow Leopard Trust. The researchers covered 360,000 km2 of the entire Sanjiangyuan Region in Central Asia and analysed data from interviews with herders, villagers and monks.

SL photo Panthera Shan Shiu SLT Tibetan Plateau camera trap

Camera trap photo of a snow leopard on the Tibetan Plateau. Photo Panthera / Shan Shui / SLT.

Director of Shan Shui, Dr. Lu Zhi, said, “With Buddhist education, Tibetan people have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years. Now like everywhere else, the traditional culture on the Plateau is facing the challenge of modernization. Conservationists should work closer with social institutions, integrating scientific methodologies with cultural approaches for better solutions.”

The Study is published in the journal Conservation Biology. Read more on Panthera’s website.

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