The Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) aims to protect this endangered cat through community-based conservation projects that are based on an improved scientific understanding of Snow Leopard behaviour, needs, habitats and threats.
The SLT is the world’s leading authority on the study and protection of the Snow Leopard, working with governments and conservationists in five of the 12 countries within the Snow Leopard’s vast range.
The Snow Leopard of central Asia is threatened by habitat degradation, declines in prey due to hunting, retaliatory killing by livestock herders, and poaching for the illegal trade in fur, bones and other body parts. The most recent estimate of the global wild population is 3,920-6,390 mature individuals and numbers are thought to be decreasing.
The SLT is a non-profit organization founded in 1981 by the late Helen Freeman to protect Snow Leopards in the wild. Helen was a volunteer guide at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle when the zoo acquired its first two Snow Leopards before becoming the first female chair of the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan to help zoos manage captive Snow Leopards. Seeing that the Snow Leopard was threatened in the wild, Helen set up the SLT and travelled throughout Asia, Europe and North America to raise awareness of the threats faced by this elusive cat.
The SLT has worked with Today, the SLT operates in China, Mongolia, India, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan—five key countries home to over 75% of the world’s Snow Leopard population. Local staff, together with conservation organisations and researchers from around the world, work on grassroots community-based conservation programs, environmental education, and policy-making, and field researchers conduct studies on Snow Leopard ecology, genetics, population health, status and dynamics and the interactions between Snow Leopards and local communities.
SLT’s successes include fitting and tracking 20 Snow Leopards with GPS collars to find out more about their behaviour and ecological requirements to allow better protection, working with local communities and activists to create the Tost Tosonbumba Nature Reserve in Mongolia, and increasing household incomes for over 400 local families by 40% through the production and sale of Snow Leopard Enterprises handicrafts.
Following a meeting between WLT Director of Conservation Richard Cuthbert and SLT Executive Director Dr Mishru at the Whitley Awards ceremony, the World Land Trust partnered with the SLT in 2022 to establish and manage the Bashqar Gol Biosphere Reserve in the Laspur Valley, situated in north-west Pakistan. This reserve will protect Snow Leopard habitat from further degradation and will be legally recognised as a protected area under the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife and Biodiversity Act.
WLT began its partnership with the Snow Leopard Trust in 2022 to fund and establish the Bashqar Gol Biosphere Reserve in the Laspur Valley, situated in north-west Pakistan. Snow Leopards in this mountainous region are under threat by habitat degradation due to deforestation from subsistence timber extraction, retaliatory killing by local herders over livestock predation, and poaching. The new Bashqar Gol Biosphere Reserve will protect 92,000 ha (227,337 acres) of Snow Leopard habitat.
The proposed reserve will protect much of this area’s rich biodiversity including the Snow Leopard (Vulnerable), prey species such as the Siberian Ibex (Near Threatened), other large mammals including Brown Bear, Grey Wolf, Eurasian Lynx and Golden Jackal (all Least Concern), birds like the Bearded Vulture (Near Threatened) and Himalayan Snowcock (Least Concern), and freshwater fish including the Snow Trout (Vulnerable).
With WLT support, SLT will identify and map critical habitats of the Bashqar Gol and the Shandor Plateau, create a management plan, and submit the proposal for formal designation as a Biosphere Reserve to the Provincial Wildlife Department. The Wildlife Department will manage the reserve with local Valley Conservation Committees, which will include management of human-wildlife conflict, and six community wildlife guards are to be supported to increase protection and carry out wildlife surveillance. Over the course of this two-year project, 100 ha (247 acres) of degraded land will be restored by planting 50,000 native trees.
Executive Director: Charudutt (Charu) Mishra