October 23 marks the International Snow Leopard Day. Snow leopard is considered as an indicator of healthy mountain ecosystems. If it is good for the leopard, it is not necessary to worry about other animals living there. But today there are reasons to worry.
There are from 4000 to 7500 thousand of these “mythical animals” left in the world – they are called so because they are rarely seen by people. The International Union for Conservation of Nature warns that by 2040 the population of snow leopards will have decreased by another 10 percent. Besides the poaching, one of the main threats is the expansion of economic activity and the invasion on snow leopard’s territory by humans. As the animals that feed him go further into the forest, the snow leopard is forced to look for new habitats, and there are fewer of them.
Another serious negative factor is climate change, which also changes existing ecosystems and affects the lives of both people and snow leopards. Just one example: the more the predator’s habitat shrinks, the closer it gets to humans and, in the absence of wild ungulates, attacks pets.
To further explore the impact of climate change on the snow leopards and the animals they hunt, and to find ways to “coexist peacefully” with humans and snow leopards are the objectives of the “Disappearing Treasures” project, which the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is implementing in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The International Forum on Snow Leopard Conservation has been held in 2017 in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek.
This beautiful and graceful predator even adorns the coat of arms of Kyrgyzstan among the other 500 living species there. International organizations and donors, scientists and activists have joined in protecting the snow leopard. The Global Strategy for Snow Leopard Conservation was adopted in 2013. However, the UN Assistant Secretary-General Cihan Sultanoglu stressed that local residents should also be involved in this work.
“It is important to involve local communities where the snow leopard habitat is located. We need to change the behavior of people and involve the local population. Only few people have seen snow leopards personally. But they exist, and we have to save them!”