Saving Nepal’s Snow Leopards

Tashi Ghale and Rodney JacksonThe Manang District of central Nepal covers an area of 2246 sq.km. and supports some 9,500 people in twelve villages. There are 32 primary schools and 17 secondary schools. To the north lies the District of Mustang, separated from Manang by Thorung La, a 5415-meter (17,766 foot) pass. Snow leopards have long inhabited this region, which falls within the Annapurna Conservation Area, but only with the advent of trail cameras has their presence been significantly documented.

In 2005, Tashi Ghale trekked over Thorong La from his home village of Manang, to meet Rodney Jackson and learn how to use a trail camera. Within the year, Tashi sent the first images of Manang’s snow leopards to be captured on the camera Snow Leopard Conservancy had donated to him.cat in snow

Today, Tashi serves as field conservationist on the Snow Leopard team of our new partners, GPN (see Foxlights for Baby Yaks in our Blog section). Tashi recently reported on activities carried out over the summer.

During our Pallas’s cat project implementation during last two years, I had a good opportunity to spend time with the herders, especially those in and around my home village, and learn about their understandings, problems and suggestions. But farther-flung villages were beyond our access, so I didn’t have much interaction with them in those areas.

After GPN and the Snow Leopard Conservancy formed a new collaboration, I was asked to spend May, June, and July building relationships in those more remote areas, and identifying key herders to distribute fox lights and maintain communications.

During my visit, I learned of herder’s positive response to fox lights in deterring snow leopards, and also of their Manang villager with FoxLightproblems and expectations. Herders requested help in predator-proofing corrals, especially where the Fox Lights have been used for some time. The return of the wolf is another threat; people still blame snow leopard for the losses.

I spent significant time describing our project activities, pros-cons of fox lights, and future activities. It was important to make a database of the number of herders present in the valley, and prioritize those who should participate in the first phase distribution. I installed 8 fox lights in Manang and Tanki Manang Villages.

I also met with Annapurna Conservation Area Management Committees, and shared information with them and the central Manang office about the ongoing collaboration between GPN-SLC.

We need to better understand habitat use pattern of snow leopard, and we need to create a livestock depredation database for both wolf and snow leopard. This will help with monitoring and better planning and implementation of conservation action.

Snow Leopard April 2016 (GPN)
Tashi captured this image in April, 2016, in an on-going intensive camera-trapping study being carried out as part of the GPN-SLC collaboration. This study has also produced the first evidence of Pallas’s cats in Nepal, and the return of Himalayan wolves to the Manang Valley after four decades. Tashi was recently honored by WWF with the 2016 Abraham Conservation Award.

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