Cubs with their mother (2nd cub is lying by the mother) in Upper Mustang, Nepal (photo: SLC/NTNC-ACAP)
Partners: Department of National Parks & Wildlife Conservation, National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC)/Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP)
Snow Leopard Conservancy Director Rodney Jackson and associates conducted the first radio-collaring study of snow leopards from 1981 to 1985 in Nepal’s remote west. This seminal study was featured in the June 1986 National Geographic, and led to the publication of Darla Hillard’s account, Vanishing Tracks: Four Years Among the Snow Leopards of Nepal. Jackson trained national park rangers in field survey methods. In the early 1990s, he led the first in-depth study of livestock depredation by snow leopards in the Annapurna Conservation Project Area, with colleagues including Som Ale, currently serving as the Conservancy’s Regional Conservation Director.
In 2005 Som photographed the first confirmed snow leopard seen since the 1960s on the Nepal side of Mount Everest.
|Coverage of first snow leopard tracking study ever conducted.||First confirmed snow leopard sighting in 2005 in 40 years (photo: Dr. Som Ale)|
Nepal is thought to harbor 300-500 snow leopards, making it an important range country (along with China and Mongolia).
In 2003 we partnered with the Nepal Trust to initiate conservation activities, but this program had to be postponed as a result of the Maoist insurgency. Read about it here.
In 2010 we partnered with the National Trust for Nature Conservation, and opened a Snow Leopard Conservation Project office in Kathmandu.
Savings and Credit group in Sagarmatha (photo: SLC/NTNC/ACAP)
Under Dr. Som Ale’s direction the first savings and credit group was developed in the Mount Everest region. Each participating village was provided start-up funding of about $2700, in two installments. Each household member agreed to invest $1.35 per month in the seed fund, while the Conservancy provided training in accounting and helped the community set up a transparent management structure with safeguards to prevent or minimize loan defaults. One group doubled their savings within a year by holding special cultural shows for tourists and making loans to members at 18% interest instead of the 25-30% charged by money-lenders.
This work is being conducted under the supervision of the Buffer Zone Management Committee, the main legal body charged with community development and resource conservation activities in the park. The goal is to build a fund from which at least 25% is invested in snow leopard conservation with activities that may vary from partially compensating livestock depredation to patrolling habitat for musk deer snares.
In the Mustang region of the Annapurna Conservation Area in central Nepal, we paired elder livestock herders with high school students to monitor snow leopards via trail cameras. These teams have captured many images, including a mother with cubs (photo at top of page), and images of a common leopard– proof that they overlap with snow leopards in central Nepal.
This first-ever footage of snow leopards from Mustang was viewed by the entire community– villagers, ACAP staff, and local civil servants were all amazed to watch their majestic cat. The video was distributed among the other ACAP field stations so everyone in the region would have the chance to see.
Since 2000, the Snow Leopard Conservancy has supported initiatives in Nepal to increase conservation awareness among teachers and school children. We built the Junior Ranger Program to reach thirty schools in far western Dolpo (the site of Peter Matthiessen’ classic book, The Snow Leopard). Collaborating with a Nepalese nonprofit, we also produced a series of children’s books that are used widely and have been translated into three languages, including Tibetan braille.
Young boy with Snow Leopards Scouts booklet (photo: SLC/NTNC/ACAP)
Dr. Ale has overseen the initiation of Snow Leopard Environmental Camps in the Sagarmatha (Everest) and Annapurna areas of Nepal where tudents learn about snow leopard habitat and wildlife watching, particularly the local Himalayan tahr. Nothing like this camp had ever been done in the region, and was accepted enthusiastically by teachers, parents, and local authorities. Following the camp, the Conservancy compiled the students’ artwork and prose into a booklet available in Nepal.
Snow Leopard Scout in Mustang creating river rock art (photo: SLC/NTNC/ACAP)
Dr. Ale also introduced the Snow Leopard Scouts program on behalf of the Conservancy and its partners. The program is now active in the Mount Everest, Annapurna, and Manang regions. These young ambassadors are responsible for spreading the message of conservation throughout their communities. With inclusive conservation practices, all participants, young and old, feel a sense of responsibility for their natural environment.