Snow leopard on the trail above Phoksundo Lake

Congratulations to filmmaker Sonam Choekyi Lama and snow leopard researcher and conservationist Tshiring Lhamu Lama for the success of their short documentary film “The Snow Leopard Calling” that won Best Documentary in the Panorama category in the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF).

A successful blue sheep hunt

Sisters Sonam and Tshiring, who grew up in Dolpo, a region of Western Nepal, are members of Snow Leopard Conservancy partner Mountain Spirit. Tshiring is also the founder of Snow Leopard Journeys, a trekking company whose main objectives are:

  • To conserve vulnerable snow leopards

  • To preserve and promote Dolpo culture

  • To encourage, empower, and engage local people by creating local job opportunities.

Pictured is their snow leopard research team – Sonam, Pamma Gurung, and Tshiring in their home village of Phoksundo

The all-women research team spent three winter months in early 2020 documenting the presence of snow leopards in the region, meeting with local herders to explain the ecological importance of this apex predator and how it brings balance to the mountain ecosystem, and planning for upcoming snow leopard treks after the Covid-19 pandemic has been resolved, which will create not only awareness but also economic opportunities for the local residents.

Local community members of Dolpo with their livestock.

After witnessing the prevalence and severity of the local human-predator conflict, Tshiring, according to an article written by her sister for the Nepali Times, was “convinced that snow leopard conservation can only happen if the local communities are involved in protecting the animal.”

Tshiring setting up a camera trap on the trail above Phoksundo Lake

Tshiring and Pamma Gurung returning to camp after tracking snow leopards.

KIMFF describes the film that Sonam and Tshiring created to document their research as one that shines “a light on snow leopard conservation… The film was beautifully shot in the mountains of Dolpo during the winter time and provides an insight into the complexities around the issues of conservation. It is important and will resonate with viewers, not only in Nepal but internationally as well.”

All photos and video captures by Sonam Choekyi Lama & Tshiring Lhamu Lama