The Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) was founded by Dr. Rodney Jackson, a leading expert on snow leopards (Panthera uncia) and their habitat. We are a non-profit organization with headquarters in Sonoma, California and Ladakh, India. Dr. Jackson’s 1980’s pioneering radio-tracking study of snow leopards in the Nepalese Himalaya led to a cover story in National Geographic. He has trained biologists across many of the snow leopard’s 12 range countries although his real passion rests with helping local people coexist with this elusive predator. His and Darla Hillard’s work with rural communities led to the establishment of the Snow Leopard Conservancy in 2000 and the development of grassroots interventions, including predator-proofed corrals, Himalayan Homestays, and other economic incentives for transforming the snow leopard from a pest to a valuable asset in the eyes of local people. Today, the Conservancy actively partners with local communities in Pakistan, Nepal, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Russia, and India.
What do we do?
We work with local partners and herder communities, the front line in preserving the biodiversity of Central Asia’s high mountains, by providing technical and financial assistance for activities linked to stewardship and biodiversity conservation. Our programs build community ownership of projects, long-term self-reliance, and ecosystem health. We involve communities in non-invasive baseline research on snow leopards, their prey, and their habitat, blending western science with indigenous knowledge.
Why do we do it?
There is less and less land for the wild animals in our world. Saving this iconic species has been our life’s work. Our task is to help local communities keep livestock depredation from snow leopards at a manageable level while increasing incomes and strengthening stewardship of alpine ecosystems. We will know we have done our job when Central Asia’s herders recognize and act upon the greater worth of having a live snow leopard rather than a pelt of one that took their livestock. We envision a vibrant mountain landscape where people and wildlife are in harmony with the environment and a keystone species like the snow leopard can live in freedom.
What are the challenges?
Working in so many different countries and in such remote areas leads to difficulties communicating with our in-country partners. Travel is slow and arduous. Additionally, politics and authorizing agencies with varied regulations can impede conservation. There is also a lack of conservation training in many of these countries as that has not been a high priority. These factors, along an expansion of livestock herding for economic viability in these regions, have led to situations where snow leopards are drawn into close proximity to grazing herds but without the proper techniques employed to protect the livestock. Further, poaching and other archaic practices still exist in these areas.
How do we work?
Our educational programs have taught conservation history and strategy to over 16,000 students in countries like Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Russia, and India. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of conservationists and help them acquire the tools and training needed to become stewards and guardians of their environments. Our programs build community ownership of projects, long-term self-reliance, and ecosystem health, while addressing the root causes that lead to people-wildlife conflict.
Improving Local Economies
When the snow leopard preys upon livestock rather than native prey, herders sometimes resort to killing the snow leopard to alleviate the problem. In order to protect the snow leopard and change peoples’ attitudes so that it is seen as an asset rather than a threat, the Snow Leopard Conservancy works with herders to predator-proof their corrals, implement electronic light deterrents, and develop community-managed insurance programs. The Conservancy also promotes ecotourism initiatives such as Himalayan Homestays and Snow Leopard Photography Treks to reduce economic dependence of the raising of sheep and goats.
Monitoring the snow leopard is done using remote camera traps, fecal DNA sampling, and GPS–satellite radio collars to study movements and corridor analysis to find areas to target for conservation efforts. We do this in order to better understand snow leopard behavior patterns, allowing us to target key areas as well as design and evaluate cost-effective programs.
We will be more successful in protecting snow leopards if we have reliable information on where they occur, which areas contain the best numbers, and which populations are most at risk from factors including poaching and habitat change. Below are the primary monitoring methods used in our programs:
2021 U.S. Headquarters Staff Rodney Jackson PhD Founder-Executive Director Darla Hillard Land of the Snow Leopard Network Facilitator Ashleigh Lutz-Nelson Vice President Charleen Gavette Conservation and Education Program Manager Joyce Robinson Administrative Assistant Shavaun Kidd Outreach Manager Kathy Ah San Accounts and Office Administrator 2021 Board of Directors Caroline Gabel Chair Rodney Jackson President Carolyn MacKenzie Secretary Bob Wilson Treasurer Mary Herrmann Trustee Tshewang Wangchuk Trustee 2021 Advisory Board Christine Breitenmoser-Würsten PhD IUCN Cat Specialist Group Renee Bumpus Conservation Manager, Houston Zoo Don Hunter PhD Founder, Rocky Mountain Cat Conservancy Kristin Nowell Director, Cat Action Treasury Barbara Palmer Husbandry Advisor, AZA/Felid Taxon Advisory Group Camille Richard Rangeland Ecologist George Schaller PhD Mike Weddle Science Instructor-Retired