Nepalese Herdsmen Help Save Snow Leopards

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc
photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

Despite its name, the snow leopard’s closest relative is the tiger. Unlike the tiger, however, these animals have never been known to attack humans, though they are similarly endangered, with between 4,080 and 6590 adults remaining in the wild.

Stories of efforts to save such endangered species often start happily and end in tragedy, as conservationist efforts clash with the needs of locals to protect their livelihoods, but the story of Himali Chungda Sherpa and his Yak Insurance Plan bucks the trend.

The day that Sherpa killed three snow leopard cubs he found beside the remains of his cattle marked a profound change in his feelings about this beautiful predator.

“From that night onwards the mother snow leopard started crying from the mountain for her cubs, and my cattle were crying for the loss of their calves. I realised how big a sin I had committed and promised myself that I would never do such a thing in the future.”

Sherpa, with the aid of a 1.2 million rupee donation from the University of Zurich, set up an insurance plan for his fellow herdsmen. A fee of 55 rupees per head per year buys insurance for their cattle against snow leopard attack. The scheme pays out  2,500 rupees for a confirmed death. Since the scheme started, more than 200 payments have been awarded and evidence gathered indicates snow leopard numbers are increasing.

The tale of Sherpa and his insurance plan serves as a great example of how working with local people gives long term hope for our rarest animals.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-12-yak-nepal-leopard.html#jCp

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