How Protecting Snow Leopards Can Alleviate Poverty in Central Asia
Founded in 1981, the Snow Leopard Trust is the largest non-profit in the world dedicated to conserving the endangered snow leopard.
Snow leopards make their home in the mountains of 12 Central Asian countries, and have a range of over two million square kilometers. But human activities are a constant threat to snow leopards, and it is estimated that as few 3,500 still live in the wild.
The people living in snow leopard habitat are most often nomadic herders who depend entirely on their livestock for food and wool. If a snow leopard hunts a domestic animal, this can cause severe economic hardship that leads to retaliation against the cat. Snow leopards are also poached by families living on less than $1.00 USD a day, who sell the fur and bones in order to make enough money to meet their most basic needs.
The Snow Leopard Trust uses a Community-Based Conservation approach in order to alleviate the poverty that leads to hunting and poaching. Through conservation programs like Snow Leopard Enterprises, families sharing snow leopard habitat are offered free training on how to make beautiful handmade items from the raw wool of their livestock. These products are then purchased by the Snow Leopard Trust at mutually-agreed upon prices, and sold through our online store.
In order to participate in Snow Leopard Enterprises, each individual is required to sign a Conservation Contract pledging to protect the snow leopards in their area for an entire year. By taking action for conservation, many families in the program have doubled, and in some cases tripled, their annual income, all while conserving endangered snow leopards and their wild prey.
Right now we are trying to expand this conservation program into Kyrgyzstan. The Snow Leopard Trust has been challenged by long-time supporters to raise $13,000 from new donors before April 30th. If we meet this goal, every dollar will be matched by a generous grant. If we meet our goal, $26,000 will go to help protect the remarkable snow leopard.
Photo above by Anne-Marie (Ami 211 on Flickr)