SEARCHING FOR THE SNOW LEOPARD

ARTWORK & LITERARY WORKS CONTEST

WINNERS

Grand Prize Artwork

Faces of the Wild

Artist – Elena Kolotusha

Medium: Pastels & colored pencils

Grand Prize Literary Work

Searching for a Ghost

Poet – Becky Norman

I was certain I saw you:
The tip of that tremendous tail,
Caught in my peripheral vision.
That bunch of rocks,
Separating from the others and
Moving stealthily along the ridge.

I was certain that I heard you:
Your chuffing no more than
A breath on the air,
Laughing at my attempts to find you.
You spoke with your silences;
I had to fine-tune my ears.

I strained my senses, so desperate to see you.
I strained my hope, so hungry for a glimpse
Of this self-inflicted Vision Quest.
I gave up.
My heart broke in the futility.
And that is when you came to me.

When I stopped searching,
When I held still,
When I let you come to me.

First Place – Traditional Artwork
Adult – 18 & Over

The Mountain Ghost

Artist – Muhammad Sufyan

Medium: Watercolor

First Place – Poetry
Adult – 18 & Over

Snow Leopard Eyes

Poet – Anne Curtis

Rugged peaks and snow leopards and
Monasteries clinging impossibly to cliffs
It took me some thirty years after
Seeing pictures in National Geographic.
The trail I follow climbs steeply
And where it crests a hill, a flock of blue sheep graze.

Warm sun and winding rocky paths
Up through canyons where wild roses in dry creek beds
Grow amid willows and wildflowers
An ibex poses on a cliff top, scimitar horns
Outlined by the bluest of skies
Looking too much like a photograph to be real.

Canyons give way to green meadows
Higher up granite boulders beckon and I sit
Resting, watching the shifting light
Yaks graze summer pasture near Kang Yatze glacier
And across the valley, storm clouds
Sweep over mountains, painting them snow white as they pass.

I marvel at the magic of
Expansive views, thin air and changing light on clouds
Sitting there among the boulders,
I wonder (with a thrill) if perhaps, somewhere close among the cliffs
Or farther across the valley
Just perhaps… Snow leopard eyes are watching me!

Second Place – Traditional Artwork
Adult – 18 & Over

Snow Baby

Artist – Elena Kolotusha

Medium: Scratchboard engraving, inks

Second Place – Poetry
Adult – 18 & Over

The Protector 

Poet – Debra Crowe-Vitale

The Himalayan range is vast
Under the inky black sky
Dusted with stars shining bright
She restlessly prowls.

Time eternal
Amid crags that rise, ridges and peaks
Hidden shadows waver
She silently glides ghostly.

Air so pure and rare
High among the swirling clouds
Movement in nocturnal hours
She now patiently waits.

The den deep enough
Her rosetted offspring
Sleep on
While

She protects.

Third Place – Traditional Artwork
Adult – 18 & Over

Mimi & Fuku

Artist – Ekaterina Drozhdina

Medium: Pastels & colored pencils

First Place – Short Stories
Adult – 18 & Over

Chasing Shadows: In Search of the Snow Leopard in the High Himalayas

Author – Ailin Mao

There he is. I am captivated. His jaw is broad and strong, and I can tell that his eyes are deep amber even though he is looking away. Behind him lies what remains of a two-year-old yak, lying limp on the ground, black fur matted where blood has been spilt and dried.

We watch with bated breath as the snow leopard approaches the carcass killed several nights before. He buries his face in the insides of its abdomen, the skin already pulled apart to expose protruding ribs.

Another head appears. Small, black, and round, it presents an incongruous addition to the tableau before us. A blur flashes – the cat has been sufficiently disturbed and chases the mystery guest away. A flutter of feathers exposes the intruder to be a black-billed magpie, and it looks as though its next move may be a brave landing on the snow leopard’s tail.

The camera trap has captured an entire series of images documenting this awkward dance between irritated cat and pesky bird. In spite of the former’s valiant displays of speed and strength, he is up against a tenacious adversary. I can almost hear the magpie’s galling squawk, a piercing kekekekeke, accompany its incessant reappearances.

In a show of exasperation, the snow leopard bounds away from his kill and flops down on a boulder. As luck would have it, the camera trap catches his facial expressions head-on, and I watch him avert his eyes from the scene before him. He seems to be making every effort to maintain his dignity, determinedly holding his head up high as he stares into the distance. Meanwhile, the magpie settles in for a delicious meal of raw yak flesh.

Epilogue:

On the 28th of October 2018, I had my first and only snow leopard sighting. Prior to seeing him in the flesh, my motley crew of snow leopard spotters and I had already been introduced to this particular cat with the aid of camera trap footage.

Nestled in the toasty kitchen of a traditional mud-bricked Ladakhi home in the village of Ulley, we huddled around the laptop, enthralled by the expressive snow leopard and his showdown with the black-billed magpie. Cups of hot cha ngarmo or sweet milk tea kept our hands warm, and those same hands fumbled the following day as we struggled to focus the spotting scope on the blurred figure in the distance.

Our morning out in the mountains earlier that day had been unsuccessful, and we were working extremely hard to keep our expectations low and reasonable. Steadily climbing up to an altitude of 4,200 metres from our homestay, we had taken a path that cuts under the high ridge, occasionally using the spotting scope to explore the rock formations above and beyond the yak carcass.

And there he was, far more relaxed than us, enjoying a languid sun-soaked nap on a large boulder across the valley. Hidden enough to observe him unnoticed for the next two hours, we watched as he stretched out, yawned, and wrapped his fluffy tail around himself as the sun began to set.

As dusk settled on the high mountains, he took one final unperturbed pose of complete nonchalance, and then the grey ghost left his perch, disappearing into the shadows of the Himalayas.

Fourth Place – Traditional Artwork
Adult – 18 & Over

Fubuki & Yukko

Artist – Ekaterina Drozhdina

Medium: Pastels & colored pencils

Fifth Place – Traditional Artwork
Adult – 18 & Over

Snow Leopard

Artist – Lucia Schenk

Medium: Colored pencils

First Place – Traditional Artwork

Youth – Ages 12-17

Snow Leopard Mother with Cub

Artist – Parag Chettri

Medium: Pen

First Place – Traditional Artwork

Youth – Ages 11 & Under

Snow Leopard

Artist – Hanna Dribinski

Medium: Watercolor & acrylic

First Place – Traditional Artwork

Youth – Ages 12-17

First Place – Traditional Artwork

Youth – Ages 11 & Under

Snow Leopard Mother with Cub

Artist – Parag Chettri

Medium: Pen

Snow Leopard

Artist – Hanna Dribinski

Medium: Watercolor & acrylic

First Place – Digital Artwork

Adult – 18 & Over

Snow Leopard

Artist – Daniel Dahan

First Place – Digital Artwork

Youth – Ages 12-17

Snow Leopard Mother & Cub

Artist – Parag Chettri

First Place – Digital Artwork

Adult – 18 & Over

First Place – Digital Artwork

Youth – Ages 12-17

Snow Leopard

Artist – Daniel Dahan

Snow Leopard Mother & Cub

Artist – Parag Chettri

Second Place – Short Stories
Adult – 18 & Over

COMING BACK HOME

Excerpt from an animated film script

Author – Chingiz Samudin uulu

Scene 1

News in the press about snow leopard extinction…

Narrator: Year 2030. “Snow leopards are already thought to be extinct. Ecologists are making their last effort to save them. They have decided to take emergency measures. They have genetically determined the place of origin of all the remaining snow leopards in every zoo throughout the world. They are teaching them to hunt and will then set all of them free back into the mountains.

A little cargo aircraft flies over the sea where there are tankers and oil platforms, over the fields where there are smoke-covered cities, finally reaching the snow-capped mountains and blue sky.

A car moves along the unpaved, dusty mountain road. There’s a carrier inside the boot. The name “DIANA” is on the carrier, and a snow leopard is lying inside it. Sun rays move over the cat’s body and long tail.

Human arms carefully put the carrier on the ground. They open the door of the carrier. The snow leopard squints her eyes. People are calling her to come out. Diana comes out. She climbs the rocks slowly. Then she disappears behind the cliffs. A man is looking at a monitor in his hands.

Man: “The sattelite shows that the collared snow leopard is somewhere in this gorge. I hope she’ll find him soon.”

People follow her, concerned, and take photos as she leaves.

Scene 2

A marten and a snowcock are carefully walking down a the rocky terrain lightly covered with snow. The snowcock sometimes jumps onto the rocks, making a short flight, and then continues walking after the marten. Suddenly the marten jumps back and shouts.

Marten: “A trap!”

The snowcock freezes. They see a trap set on the path between stones. The marten has a fit of hysteria. He starts to rub his back on a rock and drags himself in the dust.

Marten: “They are going to catch me. I don’t want to be a fur coat.”

Snowcock: “Stop! They can’t catch you. Just be careful, okay.”

Marten: “No. They will catch me anyway. Why was I given this skin? How do I remove it? I won’t be a coat.” He starts to shear his fur with a stone. “No fur, no coat!”

The snowcock looks at the marten’s panic and gets angry:

Snowcock: “Quit it. If you have no fur, then they will eat your meat. If you have no meat, then they use your bones as a medicine or just hang you whole on a wall. So stop this stupid escapade and walk behind me.”

The snowcock walks on, and the marten walks round the trap and continues walking backwards still looking at the trap.

Scene 3

The snow leopard is walking up the riverbed which is surrounded with steep snowless rocks. The marten and the snowcock are following her.

Marten: “Wait.”

The marten stops her.

Marten: “Tell me again. Where did you come from?”

Diana, the snow leopard: “I’m from an island called England. She says calmly, “to be exact, I come from an English zoo. People brought me here and released me.”

Marten: “Eng. . .what? People? Brought you and released you? I can’t believe it!”

The snow leopard passes by the marten speechless. The marten steps in front of her again.

Marten: “But why did they do that? Maybe they sent you to catch or kill us? We know many stupid animals that serve humans. Who knows that you aren’t one of them?”

Snow leopard walks on without replying, staring at the surrounding mountains. The snowcock comes between them and soothes the marten.

Snowcock: “Come on friend. You see she’s been in people’s hands for a long time. Don’t bother her with your interrogations. Let her get adopted. You’re becoming too cautious.”

Marten: “How are we not to be cautious here in our days,” he sighed peevishly. “I smelled the humans. Today I saw a car approaching, and I was almost trapped.”

Scene 4

The snowcock, the snow leopard, and the marten continue walking on the pristine snow. The sun shines, making long shadows of them on the snow. The snowcock sees fresh footprints on the snow.

Snowcock: “Here is the ‘Lame’”

The snow leopard surprisingly looks closely at the footprints and compares them with her own footprints.

Diana the snow leopard: “How did you know that it was the ‘Lame?’ Footprints of one paw that are deeper than the other in the snow?”

The snowcock looks in the direction where the tracks go on for while and then replies with confidence.

Snowcock: “It’s too easy. There is just no other snow leopard that lives here.” He turns to her, “well, of course, excluding you.”

The snowcock calls to the marten that has remained far behind.

Snowcock: “Hurry up. We must go to the patterned stones. I bet he has seen us already.”

They follow the track.

Marten: “He has wandered on the patterned stones since he was left alone.” The magpie says he has been talking to the stones.”

Snowcock: “I think it’s because of that huge collar, or the magpie is just talking nonsense.”

Marten: “Who knows?”

Scene 5

Diana the snow leopard, the snowcock, and the marten wander among the patterned stones on the wide slope. There are numerous carved pictures of various animals and hunters. Diana looks at every stone and goes on while the marten continues along the path. Diana asks the snowcock:

Diana the snow leopard: “Who made these pictures?”

Snowcock: “My granny said that her great-great-grandmother was not even born when these stones were carved.”

Diana continues looking at the stones with great interest.

Diana: “This is a goat, this is a wolf, and this is definitely a deer. Another is an ox. Is that me?”

Marten: The magpie says that it is not an ox. It is aurochs. They are extinct. And that is a tiger. It is also extinct.

Snowcock: Stop repeating the magpie’s words all the time!

The snowcock shows the petroglyph of the snow leopard to Diana.

Snowcock: “It looks like you!”

Diana stares at the petroglyph of the snow leopard. The picture reflects in her eyes.

Scene 6

Three wolves chase an ibex over a rocky riverbed. The ibex runs towards cliffs. An old wolf shouts to two younger wolves.

Old wolf: “Turn to the big ice! Cut it towards the big ice!”

The young wolves cut off the ibex’s way to salvation. The ibex approaches a wide, shiny white patch of ice as the wolves are about to overtake her.

Old wolf: “Don’t let it stand up when it slides down. Be quick!”

The ibex quickly runs and steps onto the shiny white ice. The white surface turns out to not be ice but an open shallow river. Water splashes from her hooves to the wolves’ faces while the ibex crosses the water and jumps onto the rocks, climbing away quickly. The wolves remain in the water, soaked and aggrieved. The ibex remains on the firm rocky cliff and flings tiny rocks and dust down onto the wolves and leaves proudly spitting towards them. The wolves lick their lips. One young wolf leans down to take a drink of water from the shallow river.

Old wolf: “There is still a month left until the marmots come out. The ice shouldn’t be melted yet. We will starve.”

Younger wolf: “We must do something. We have’t eaten anything for nine days. Maybe it’s worth it for us to go up and take the Lame’s prey. He’s alone and we’re three.”

Old wolf: “What are you getting at? Have we ever depended on the Lame? We have twelve legs. How can we loot prey from the Lame that has only three legs?

She wolf: “The situation forces us to do that. Let’s go to the Lame’s territory rather than die in hunger. Anyway vultures are stealing his prey.”

The three wolves wander up the river. The vultures that were waiting for a feast fly away.

Vulture: “I see these losers are ashamed again. Let’s go.

Scene 7

The Lame and Diana are stalking prey from among huge boulders. It is hard to discern them. In front of them argali rams are grazing.

Lame: Whispering, “If you fail, do not chase too long, okay? Just leave. Don’t cross the line I showed you under any circumstances! Okay?”

Diana jumps out and starts to chase the argali rams. One of the rams runs down along a narrow strip of land. Diana runs like a bullet. The ram is only one jump further.

Then, they enter an area marked with red flags. While running Diana notices humans in orange uniforms. She’s surprised. Diana hears people’s voices from a radio transmitter. Suddenly Diana and the ram feel the earth powerfully shake under their feet. They have found themselves near a huge chain explosion. Heavy dust covers the sun. Birds fly away. The daylight becomes dim. There is an absolute silence. Diana and the ram run away together from the blast area.

To be continued…

Honorable Mentions

Traditional Artwork
Adult – 18 & Over

Akbar

Artist – Ekaterina Drozhdina

Medium: Pastels & colored pencils

Traditional Artwork
Adult – 18 & Over

Snow Leopard

Artist – Joshua Smalley

Medium: Acrylic wall painting

Traditional Artwork
Adult – 18 & Over

Disappearing Ghost

Artist – Lenka Kuchyňková

Medium: Pencil & Pastels