NOTE: This is a guest post from Brad Rutherford. He has been the executive director of the Snow Leopard Trust since 2000 and recently returned from a visit to the Snow Leopard Enterprises project in Mongolia. This blog post is in response to the comments left by the public following his September 22nd post.
Thank you to everyone who posted a comment in response to my blog post on September 22nd. The photo we included by Jason Brown is one of my personal favorites, and I certainly do feel blessed to be able to work on behalf of such a gorgeous animal. Everyone posed great questions about snow leopards in general, and I want to take a moment to talk about why this cat is so important and provide some information on the snow leopards themselves.
Snow Leopards (Panthera uncia) are found in the mountains of 12 countries in Central Asia; Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The range of snow leopard habitat covers over 750,000 square/miles. That is bigger than Mexico, Indonesia, or 3 times the size of Texas!
But even with all that space, scientists agree that there are only between 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards left in the wild. Those low numbers are a direct consequence of hunting and poaching. Snow leopards are being killed for their fur and bones, which are prized in Traditional Asian Medicine, as well as by low income herders in order to protect their livestock. As a result, snow leopards are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This status places an important level of urgency on our work to protect these big cats.
There were a large number of positive comments regarding the Snow Leopard Trust’s community based conservation approach. Each member of our staff truly believes that the only way to successfully save snow leopards is by partnering with the communities living in snow leopard habitat. So while Snow Leopard Enterprises was discussed previously, we have multiple other programs in place as well, including livestock insurance and vaccinations, educational service for children and adults, as well as cutting edge research programs taking place in multiple countries.
One last bit of exciting news. The Snow Leopard Trust is a finalist in the BBC World Challenge, where snow leopards are up to win $20,000 and a special feature in both Newsweek Magazine and on BBC World News. The winner is selected based solely on the number of votes, so if you like the work we are doing, please take a moment to cast your ballot for snow leopards. By asking your family and friends to vote as well, you can help us protect the snow leopards living in the wild.
Through innovative programs, effective partnerships and the latest science, the Snow Leopard Trust is saving the magnificent snow leopard and improving the lives of people who live in the snow leopard countries of Central Asia. The Snow Leopard Trust was founded in 1981 and is the leader in global snow leopard conservation efforts.