The New York Times has just published an article on snow leopards by one of the snow leopard research greats, Dr George Schaller. Dr Schaller, is a senior conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and and vice president of Panthera. He features often on “Saving Snow Leopards Blog” and this article outlines the way many conservation organizations now focus on helping local villagers manage their land and wildlife. The article also shows the difficulties of protecting the mountain ecosystems. It is co-authored by Peter Zahler, deputy director for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Asia Program.
The article focuses on the rare cat and the communities sharing the snow leopard’s remote and fragile habitat, the cold and rugged mountains of Central Asia.
“Despite its isolation — or perhaps because of it — something fascinating has been happening in this cold mountain landscape. Communities are coming together to manage this fragile and unforgiving place, where people scrape a living from sparse alpine pastures. At the same time, neighbouring countries are finding ways to cooperate across borders that in recent history have become almost as hostile as the rugged terrain. As odd as it may seem, a big cat is helping to lead the way.
Once largely ignored because of its nearly inaccessible habitat and secretive behavior, the snow leopard has slowly gained notice as studies have found that it is increasingly threatened, with likely fewer than 7,000 animals left across its enormous range in Asia. In turn, this interest in the cats has drawn attention to the human communities of these mountains and the fragility of their ecosystem, particularly their watersheds, which are crucial to the livelihood of hundreds of millions of people in the lowlands.”