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Snow leopard expert and explorer Tshewang Wangchuck

Tshewang Wangchuck, snow leopard biologist from Bhutan and Executive Director of the Bhutan Foundation collecting snow leopard scats to research the number of cats still living in the Bhutanese mountains. Photo National Georgraphic.

Snow Leopard biologist, Snow Leopard Network member, explorer and Snow Leopard Conservancy board member  Tshewang Wangchuck from Bhutan possesses an unusual collection of three hundred scat (feces) samples from elusive snow leopards in Bhutan. In 2009 Tshewang received a grant from the National Geographic to research snow leopards and their attacks on villager’s livestock in Bhutan. His studies of snow leopard scat can show how many cats live in this habitat. He recently returned from a summer of research fieldwork in Bhutan. This week the National Geographic interviewed him on their ‘Explorer of the Week’ webpage.

What inspires you to dedicate your life to nature?

Coming from a country like Bhutan, it is easy to be drawn toward nature—so much of our existence depends on it. I have always loved the mountains; they are beautiful, grand, and awe-inspiring, and these qualities often ground you and make you realize how insignificant humans are in the bigger scheme of things. Yet, we can be the cause of so much destruction for our environment as well.

The snow leopard is an elusive, majestic large carnivore that roams our mountains. In learning about them I get to understand and appreciate so many other facets of harmonious coexistence in the mountains. While this cat is threatened in many parts of its global range, Bhutan offers a safe haven for the snow leopard. It is important that we continue to conserve this beautiful cat, but also address challenges faced by yak herders who live among the snow leopards, occasionally losing livestock to the predator.

It is important that conservation is guided by good science, and it is this that we hope to achieve through the work that we do. Inspiring the next generation of local biologists is another goal I hope to achieve.

Read the rest of the interview at National Geo Explorer of the Week.

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