Conservation of Snow Leopards

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East > North Asia/Mongolia > Mongolia

Summary

As human population expands and natural habitats shrink, people and animals are increasingly coming into conflict over living space and food. The impacts are often huge. People lose their crops, livestock, and sometimes their lives. Snow leopards use domestic livestock as a food resource in nearly all areas where they overlap with resultant retribution killing by herders.

Although snow leopards have been coexisting with humans (who probably always have hunted the superb cats) for thousands of years, their numbers are believed to have diminished recently, as a consequence of increasing conflicts with humans. During the last 3 years, attacks on livestock seem to have increased in many parts of the snow leopard’s range. Therefore local people and decision makers think that snow leopard populations have increased, although this is the result of decreasing wild ungulates and increasing competition to livestock.

Snow leopard are legally protected in Mongolia, but the population is believed to decline because of :
1) Poaching for fur, bones and body parts to be sold on the black market.
2) Loss of preys as a result of (illegal) over-hunting of ibex, argali, and marmots, and competition with livestock.
3) Loss of habitat as a consequence of degradation (over-grazing) and fragmentation.
4) Retaliation killing of stock raiders.
5) Lack of awareness and support of local people for the conservation of snow leopards, their preys and habitat (Evans et al. 2003).

WWF Mongolia has started a snow leopard conservation project in 1997 in the Uvs aymag (province), one of the aymags of the Altai-Sayan ecoregion in Western Mongolia. The project has achieved a decline in illegal hunting of snow leopards in its implementation area. Public awareness and education campaigns have been highly effective, but in Gobi-Altai, Khovd and Bayna-Ulgii aymags, snow leopards are killed out of retaliation for ‘stealing’ livestock, and then pelts are illegally traded. 33 snow leopard pelts have been traded from Mongolia to Russia during the last 5 years.

Objectives

Overall objective

Reduce human-snow leopard conflicts.

Specific objectives

- Change attitudes and behaviour of public, and increase level of knowledge on snow leopards.

- Reduce illegal hunting of snow leopards and prey species.

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