High altitude habitats for Snow Leopards, Indian Himalaya

Snow Leopard Trust’s mission is to protect the snow leopard and its mountain ecosystem through a balanced approach that addresses the needs of the local people and the environment. From the local village level up to national government policies, the Trust strives to empower people living in snow leopard habitat to improve their lives while becoming better stewards of their environment.

Snow leopards are one of the most endangered of the big cats and only 3500-7000 remain in
the wild. India is home to the third largest snow leopard population in the world, and the Upper Spiti Valley’s underdeveloped alpine habitat is one of the most important areas. An estimated 10,000 tourists visit this valley annually to experience the landscape and many hope to see signs of snow leopards. The goal of this project is to help communities safeguard the delicate Upper Spiti ecosystem and its wildlife while continuing their traditional way of life. This will be achieved by:

  • Keeping 25 square km of steppe grasslands free from livestock to allow snow leopard prey to recover
  • Establishing an insurance scheme requiring farmers to safeguard the snow leopards and compensating them for livestock lost to snow leopard predation. This scheme is to try and prevent snow leopard persecution which occurs because of livestock predation and the economic burden it causes rural families
  • Eco-camps for local children focusing on local wildlife and conservation

The Update

The Snow Leopard Trust sent in their final report in April 2014 for this project which they said “helped to protect the endangered snow leopard and the spectacular Himalayan mountainscapes in the Upper Spiti Valley in Northern India for the benefit of local communities and outdoor users.”

“Funding from EOCA directly supported livestock-free wildlife reserves, community-managed insurance programs, and environmental education for local children. These programs protect snow leopards from persecution, improve the health of native grasslands and inform young people of the need to protect the Upper Spiti landscape.”

In total, two 25 sq km reserves have been established.  A survey of the areas found multiple signs of snow leopards being present, as well as their prey.   132 children and 13 teachers took part in the ecocamps, where they learned about food chains in their local habitats.  Livestock insurance programs have been established in 7 villages with 115 households taking part.   Historically snow leopards have been persecuted in the area due to livestock predation and the economic burden it causes rural families.  With EOCA funding, this project managed an insurance program in which families pay a small premium to insure their livestock, and can file claims for reimbursement after snow leopard attacks.  As part of the program, villagers sign a conservation agreement not to harm in any way or kill snow leopards or their key prey species. This program helps mitigate emotional issues surrounding human-predator conflict such as fear, worry and stress. This ‘safety net’ enables families to relax a little and accept snow leopard presence which, over the long term, facilitates communities taking a larger role in other conservation projects.

Watch this wonderful video of Snow leopards filmed in the project area HERE!