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Serious efforts needed to protect snow leopards: Wangchuk

'There is a strong need to reduce the ongoing conflict between people-wildlife through local involvement', says Wangchuk, reports Arun Joshi .

india Updated: Jan 15, 2007 18:26 IST
Arun Joshi

Expressing serious concern over the endangered Snow Leopard found in the upper reaches of the Himalayas including India, Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan, Russia, Bhutan, Mongolia, China and Central Asian countries, a noted wild life conservationist Rinchan Wangchuk on Monday said that serious efforts need to be made to protect the big cat which is a top predator and an indicator species of mountain bio-diversity but is faced with a serious threat from ongoing people- wildlife conflicts.

"There is a strong need to reduce this conflict through local involvement in finding innovative and simple locally effective solutions. Initiation of environmental awareness campaigns, sensitisation of communities and strengthening community stewardship of alpine ecosystems can be some of the initiatives," said Rinchen.

"We need to build direct partnerships with local people for the conservation of snow leopard which is a seriously threatened animal. For this, we need to initiate conservation and education activities that grow from within communities and build strong foundations for locally-driven protection of snow leopards and their habitat," said. Rinchen, Director, Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC), India.

Speaking at a well-attended lecture organised by the Friends of Ladakh Society, an organisation working toward Ladakh and related issues under the aegis of Centre for History and Culture of Jammu and Ladakh Regions, University of Jammu, in Jammu on Monday. Rinchen who is passionately involved in the battle to save endangered snow leopard in India, pointed out that increased human encroachment, war and internal strife, poverty, habitat degradation are some of the serious threats to the wild life.

"The real question is how to maintain depredation at a manageable level while helping local people to perceive the greater worth of having a live snow leopard than a pelt of one that took their livestock", said. Rinchen who is son of an illustrious father, Colonel Rinchen, who was conferred with Mahavir Chakra twice.

Making an elaborate power point presentation on Snow Leopard conservation efforts to preserve the big cat, Rinchen said in India, the Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) is working to promote innovative grassroots measures that lead local people to become better stewards of endangered snow leopards, their prey, and habitat. Much of the SLC's work is in the Ladakh region where it is working with local communities for the conservation of the snow leopard.

"We have been working with remote villagers in predator proofing their livestock pens. In a survey, we found they were losing 13% of their valuable livestock to snow leopards and wolves incurring a loss of over Rs12000 annually. Such a loss is a huge economic impact for a poor family. And often such cases of heavy losses are met with retaliatory killing of this endangered cat. By making minor intervention like covering the roof with wire mesh to deter access to predators," he said adding this has helped in checking multiple losses; coupled with increased income opportunities from eco-tourism has been making positive change amongst people towards this animal was reduced and they were able to reduce the heavy losses of the villagers and thus saves the snow leopard.

Highlighting the role of SLC in snow leopard conservation, Rinchan said SLC helps communities to improve their corral and herding techniques to reduce livestock losses. At the same time, it trains and assists communities to set up home-stays, work as wildlife guides and set up small eco-tourism enterprises. The income of these mountain people earn from tourists who come to see and learn about the snow leopard helps offset livestock losses, and pay for children's school fees and the cost of alternative fuel to reduce reliance on scarce fuel wood.

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First Published: Jan 15, 2007 18:26 IST