In the last year the prestigious Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) has awarded 600,000 UK pounds to conservationists. And once again they have supported an important snow leopard conservation program for which the snow leopard community would like to extend thanks.
Working in developing countries where pressure on natural resources is high, the challenges conservationists face are immense; from fighting bureaucracy, crime and corruption – often at great personal risk – to protecting habitat, resolving human-wildlife conflict and developing sustainable alternatives for local communities.
“The Whitley Fund for Nature is unique. It doesn’t put its own people on the ground but seeks out local leaders who are already succeeding. It puts its money where it really counts, where every penny counts” says Sir David Attenborough one of its Trustees.
WFN has provided nearly £12 million of funding and training over the last 20 years. This money has recognised more than 170 conservation leaders in over 70 countries and supported a range of projects to conserve endangered species that are founded on scientific evidence and community engagement.
The snow leopard project is supported under the 2014, WFN 3-year grant called Partnership Funding which funds the work of 4 conservation heroes based in India, Turkey, Argentina and Colombia. The funds are to help save some of the world’s most threatened and charismatic species and their natural homes, including snow leopards, penguins, river dolphins and some of far Eastern Europe’s last large carnivores, wolves and bears.
WFN is supporting the program “ Protecting endangered snow leopards and their habitat across their range” in India, Pakistan, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, lead by Charudutt Mishra, Snow Leopard Trust (SLT). Here he reports on the program so far.
For the first time, governments in all 12 snow leopard range countries are coming together to agree actions to conserve these big cats and their habitat.
· Working with range country governments, SLT have identified 23 priority landscapes covering almost 25% of snow leopard habitat to be protected by 2020 and ensure populations remain connected.
· A programme has been launched in collaboration with the government of Kyrgyzstan and community rangers to help combat poaching of snow leopards at the national level.
· In country capacity to conserve snow leopards has been bolstered with the training of young female conservationists as part of the program.
· Over 4,000 herder families have been engaged in community conservation initiatives, such as livestock insurance schemes and handicraft production, which has raised $1million to date.
· More than 1,000 children have been reached through environmental education programs.
· The development of an international snow leopard friendly cashmere industry is being explored.
· 20 snow leopards have been collared to track their movements using GPS satellites, while several pioneering studies have been initiated to shed light on the ecology and behaviour of these elusive animals, and the economic, political and social dynamics surrounding their conservation.