People and snow leopards: wildlife conservation in the Himalayan high altitudes

A unique diversity of wildlife – born out of the Pleistocene and remarkably adapted to the harsh and frigid environment – makes the Himalayan high altitudes a special place. Amongst its inhabitants is the endangered snow leopard, an almost mythical cat that has become an international flagship for wildlife conservation. There are equally fascinating albeit less celebrated species – Tibetan argali, bharal, ibex, kiang, urial, wolf, and marmots – that share the snow leopard’s home, as well as unique high altitude flora of high medicinal value.

For several millennia, a diversity of pastoral peoples has also inhabited the Indian high altitudes, from the Changpa of Ladakh in the west, to the Monpa of Arunachal in the east. Originally surviving on a simple subsistence existence, today, as local economies become integrated with mainstream markets, excessive livestock grazing and hunting threaten the survival of many Himalayan species. Indigenous communities continue to bear the brunt of human-wildlife conflicts, whilst also largely been kept out of conservation efforts, and are fast losing their cultural tolerance towards once revered wildlife.

Winner of the 2005 Whitley Gold Award, Dr. Charudutt Mishra is Director and Founder Trustee of Nature Conservation Foundation, an NGO established in 1996 to promote science-based wildlife conservation in India.  He has been working in villages at high altitude in the Himalayas, just south of Ladakh, to address the twin problems of declining wild prey and human incursion which are threatening the snow leopard.  He is leading a programme aimed at securing the future of high altitude Himalayan wildlife by integrating indigenous communities with conservation efforts. Charu is working directly with local people on conservation and conflict resolution initiatives, and has set up a simple insurance scheme among communities whose livestock were being preyed on by snow leopards to reduce the number of cats being killed in retaliation.  Charu introduced the scheme first in the remote village of Kibber, where he is based.  Since the scheme began, no snow leopards have been killed by hunters.  He has also negotiated conservation agreements to keep domestic livestock out of some areas which has led to a recovery in the wild prey of the snow leopard.

Dr. Mishra is also helping to consolidate conservation approaches to the region by working with the state and central governments to formulate a participatory National Conservation Policy for high altitude wildlife.  Complementing these efforts is an education programme aimed at reaching out to a wider audience and creating a constituency for conservation.

INDIAN GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES PROJECT SNOW LEOPARD

January 20th 2009

The Indian Government today launched Project Snow Leopard as part of its efforts to conserve the globally endangered species.

The project will be operational in five Himalayan states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh with active support from the Wildlife Institute of India and the Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation. Launching the project, Minister of State for Environment and Forests S Reghupathy said Snow Leopard has been included in the list of species under Recovery Programme to be funded through the umbrella scheme of integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats.

There are more than 26 protected areas in the Himalayan landscape where snow leopard is reported. However, areas outside protected areas are equally important for a long-range species like it, he said.

‘Project Snow Leopard is a manifestation of the Government’s resolve to conserve biodiversity with community participation, and to give it the same status of importance in the high altitude as that of Tiger in the terrestrial landscape,’ he said.

NCF RECEIVES SCB DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD FOR 2006

December 19th 2005

Congratulations to Nature Conservation Foundation for being awarded the Society for Conservation Biology’s Distinguished Service Award for 2006 for outstanding contributions to nature conservation.  2005 was a busy year for NCF, with NCF Director, Charudutt Mishra, winning the Whitley Gold Award in April and the discovery of a new species of macaque by a NCF research team in May.  NCF will be awarded the prize during the opening evening of SCB’s 20th annual meeting, to be held in San Jose, California, USA from June 24th to 28th 2006.

To read more about the SCB Awards, please click here.

NCF DISCOVERS THE TIBETAN MACAQUE IN ARUNACHAL PRADESH

May 10th 2005

Scientists have stumbled upon evidence suggesting the occurrence of the Tibetan macaque (scientific name Macaca thibetana) in India, a species of monkey so far believed to be restricted only to China.

In a paper published in the May 10 issue of the journal Current Science, scientists from the Nature Conservation Foundation and their partners, the National Institute of Advanced Studies, the International Snow Leopard Trust, and the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science, report evidence of the occurrence of the species in the Upper Subansiri district of central Arunachal Pradesh. The paper is authored by R. Suresh Kumar, Charudutt Mishra, and Anindya Sinha.

The finding of the Tibetan macaque adds another species to the growing faunal catalogue of the Eastern Himalayan Arunachal Pradesh, a global biodiversity hotspot. Charu and his research group at the NCF have earlier reported several new large mammal species from Arunachal Pradesh such as the leaf deer and the black barking deer, and more recently, the Arunachal macaque (Macaca munzala), a primate new to science.

Spring 2011 – Snow leopard conservation boosted by £60,000 grant from BBC Wildlife

NCF-India and WFN have teamed up to secure £60,000 in funding to support conservation of key snow leopard populations across China, India and Mongolia. The grant will be implemented with the help of the Snow Leopard Network, of which Charu is Executive Director. Please follow this link for more information.

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