Snow Leopard Enterprise

Nordens Ark is collaborating with the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) in its work to conserve the snow leopard in the wild. One of the organisation’s most successful conservation programmes is called Snow Leopard Enterprise (SLE), and they’re working to reduce conflicts between people and snow leopards in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. The project aims to guarantee the survival of the snow leopard at the same time as improving life for the local people. To protect the snow leopard, you also have to consider the people who live in these regions. The tough and rugged mountain climate is just as much a challenge to man as it is to the snow leopard, and the battle for survival is a hard one. Many of the shepherd families living within the snow leopards’ range are below the poverty line and rely totally on their livestock to survive. When snow leopards occasionally attack their livestock, it inevitably leads to conflict between man and leopard. A conflict that all too often ends in the death of the snow leopard.

The shepherd families in the snow leopard territories live as semi-nomads, and their only source of income is from the sale of raw wool. This is traditionally sold to passing traders for a very low price. What the SLT does is offer the families the chance to increase their income by instead selling their hand-made wool products directly to the SLT. The families are invited to sign a contract. This agreement is individual to each community, but normally requires the participant not to harm or kill snow leopards or their principal prey animals. In return, the SLT offers training and equipment so the participant will be able to turn raw wool into more valuable products which are then bought by the SLT. The SLT contracts offer the participants an extra incentive to keep their side of the bargain. If no snow leopards or prey animals have been injured or killed during the year, all the participants receive a large bonus. If there is a single incident of poaching, no one gets the bonus. This arrangement not only deters the shepherds themselves from hunting, but also encourages them to protect the local wildlife from outside poachers.

The project is currently helping more than 300 families in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. Since it began in 1997, the number of snow leopards killed within the areas covered by the SLE has fallen to almost zero, while the average annual income of the participants has gone up by 40 per cent. Nordens Ark sells their hand-made products in its shop, and by buying them you’re helping to preserve the snow leopard in the wild at the same time as improving the lives of the people in these countries.

Watch the video to see how the SLE programme works, the problems it faces and how it helps conservation of the snow leopard.