Protect Pakistani Snow Leopards by Allowing Them to Coexist with Mountain Herders

snow leopards

Target: Pakistan Wildlife Foundation

Goal: Implement a co-habitat for snow leopards and mountain herders to ensure snow leopards’ survival, and compensate mountain herders who lose livestock due to snow leopard attacks

In Pakistan the snow leopard population has fallen below 450 remaining individuals. The endangered species has been particularly vulnerable to hunting as well as being killed by mountain herders. Although snow leopards live in the Himalayas, their habitats increasingly overlap with the lands of these mountain herders, leading herders to kill them in order to protect their livestock. The situation became more complex in 2010 when a study showed that 70% of a snow leopard’s diet comes directly from herders’ domestic animals such as sheep and cattle.

Taking these facts, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Shafqat Hussain has proposed a method of conservation that could help snow leopard populations stay afloat and safe from being killed by herders. The method primarily depends on having the snow leopard’s classification officially changed from “wild” to “domestic.” The reasoning is based on the fact that creation of protected areas (separating them from any and all human populations) not only has the potential to hurt leopard survival by impacting their dependent food source, but negatively impacts herders as well by cutting them off from grazing areas. Therefore, the re-classification would go hand-in-hand with support of the local herders by compensating them for any livestock loss through an insurance-type program. This has already been shown to be successful, as Hussain himself founded the Snow Leopard Project in 1999 which has allowed the human and leopard population to live together peacefully. Snow leopards are not known to attack humans, and the herders have been satisfied leaving the animals alone as long as they are compensated.

Although there are opponents to this proposal, it has been proven to work. Implementing a co-habitat is relatively easy with these insurance organizations in place, and classifying these animals as “domestic” would ensure that this peaceful relationship is solidified as well as helps toward changing a public’s hostile outlook towards an endangered species. Ask that Pakistan officially implement the widespread use of these compensation policies so that leopards and mountain herders can live peacefully.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Pakistan Wildlife Foundation,

With the Pakistani snow leopard population falling below 450 remaining members, it becomes necessary that steps be taken in order to ensure the survival of this endangered species. As their territory often overlaps with that of mountain herders, studies find that 70% of a snow leopard’s diet consists primarily of herder livestock. This often puts them in more danger of being killed.

However, conservational efforts which would see territorial separation could negatively impact both humans and animals. The leopards would suffer as a result of losing their primary food source, and herders would lose valuable grazing areas. It is because of this that a proposal has been made by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Shafqat Hussain which would see snow leopards newly classified as “domestic” animals that depend on proximity to human population. Insurance companies, such as those already founded by Hussain himself, would then actively compensate herders for any livestock lost to predators. This way, both populations are kept satisfied and — more importantly — safe from killing.

The validity of the project is only furthered by the fact that snow leopards are not known to attack humans. Please, see to it that this endangered species can continue to live in peace by allowing these insurance policies to have widespread implementation for the protection of what can be considered a domestic animal.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

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