The snow leopard is a large cat weighing between 27-54 kg (60-120 lbs), which is native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia. It is characterized by long thick fur varying from smoky gray to yellowish tan and bearing dark gray to black open rosettes on the body with small spots of the same color on the head and larger spots on the legs and tail. The snow leopard is hunted down for its pelt to be used in clothes and other garments, and for its bones and other body parts for traditional medicine.
In addition, snow leopards are subjected to retribution killings by herders as they sometimes prey on domestic livestock. As a result, snow leopards have declined in number and it is now held to be threatened and hence considered an endangered species. Considering the nature of the threats leading to the decline of snow leopard population, conservation efforts should focus on educating herders and providing them with alternative solutions to their economic needs that does not pose any danger to the snow leopard populations.
The rapid decline in the population of snow leopard is due to poaching for its beautiful fur that is valuable and revenge by owners of the livestock that the animal preys on. Although the public is not aware of that the snow white is an endangered species, the World Wildlife Fund and the International Snow Leopard Trust in 2003 revealed that there was a sharp decline in Snow Leopard population. It was approximated that the number of Snow Leopard that were left worldwide ranged between 4,000 and 7,000 (Klappenbach, 2003). This shocking discovery caused the Snow Leopard to be placed on the red list of endangered and threatened species.
Most people think that snow leopards can not be easily found because of the fact that they inhabit scrubland and grazing areas of altitudes of 2000 to 6000 meters above sea level (Klappenbach, 2003). This is however not true as poachers who seek the animal for its pelts and its bones which are used in traditional medicine still get to hunt them in their ranges. Herdsmen who seek revenge retaliate against the leopards for killing their livestock also hunt the animals at these high ranges. In cases of revenge, the herders mostly use poison to kill the snow leopards.
The snow leopard is mostly found in places that have temperate type of climate hence are characterized by very cold climatic conditions; they also prefer areas of high altitudes which usually are very cold. As a mechanism to adapt to the cold climate, the snow leopard has long fur that covers its entire body down to its feet. This fur usually turns to a greyish white colour with brown or black spots in winter while in summer the fur turns yellow with black spots. This gives the pelt a very attractive colour which the herdsmen and poachers sell for $400 a piece (Klappenbach 2003).
The pressure on the snow leopard is most intense in India and Pakistan. Human activities such as deforestation and dam projects have caused a change in the environment causing the leopard to lose its habitat in Jammu and Kashmir. These activities have caused loss of habitat not to the snow leopard alone but also to other animals greatly reducing their population. This has in turn resulted to decline of food sources for the snow leopard as there is shortage of animals to prey on (Kewa. org, 2000). As a result of the shortage, the snow leopard has resorted to preying on herders’ livestock especially sheep and goats.
In Jammu and Kashmir an eight year armed conflict between humans and wild animals mostly because of human revenge against the wild animals for preying on their livestock and sometimes killing villagers resulted to a tremendous number of animals getting killed (Kewa. org, 2000). This conflict resulted to illegal trade in which approximately $ 1 million was traded for fur that had been derived from over 1,366 endangered species of animals which included the snow leopard (Kewa. org, 2000). In spite of intervention from many organizations and agencies, the conflict in these areas still continues and is putting more pressure on the snow leopard.
The sharp decline in the number of snow leopards has caused alarm resulting to creation of several agencies which have identified poaching and revenge as the major threats to the snow leopard hence have come up with innovative ways of saving the animal from extinction that are offered to the poachers and the herdsmen in exchange for giving up hunting and killing the snow leopard. Most of the agencies and foundations are focussed on conserving not only the snow leopard but its ecosystem as well.
Rodney Jackson who is a biologist and founder of Snow Leopard Conservancy for example revealed that he had for thirty years assisted herdsmen in most of the countries where the snow leopard is found such as China, India, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan and Russia to erect concrete pens for their livestock by providing them with cement and roofing in exchange for their labour and commitment that they would not kill or poison the snow leopard as their livestock would now be safe from attacks by the leopard (Butler, 2008).
The International Snow Leopard Trust operating in China, India, Kyrgyz, Mongolia and Pakistan has focused on researching and understanding the needs of the herder communities and villagers and those of the snow leopard hence come up with community and education programs that aim at conserving the snow leopard. The trust hence gives poverty stricken women training and equipment to produce camel-wool products which it assists them to sell in the international market where they fetch 30 to 40 percent more profit than the snow leopard fur that they sell in the illegal market that is characterized with a lot of exploitation.
This move aims at conserving not only the snow leopard but also other species that are endangered by poaching. The move seeks to completely eliminate poaching of the snow leopard for its fur as the camel-wool project provides the communities with enough money to develop themselves. The herdsmen therefore have enough money to buy medicine and do not need bones from the snow leopard, can comfortably buy school supplies for their children, daily food and other basic needs.
This implies that the herdsmen no longer have reasons poach the snow leopard (Marshall, 2009) as most of their needs can be met. The agencies do not only try to address the needs of the villagers that cause them to hunt and poach the snow leopard by introducing the fencing and business projects, they also educate these communities on the need to conserve the snow leopard and protect it from it from extinction. Conclusion Herders in areas where snow leopards are found and hunt rely and are almost entirely tied up on their herds for their economic needs.
Providing alternative means of protecting their livestock may increase the likelihood that herders will give their commitment not to hunt, trap or poison snow leopards and may even cooperate in the conservation effort to save the endangered species. Furthermore, providing or teaching human inhabitants in areas with snow leopards with alternative livelihood to gain additional income for their families, in tandem with providing livestock protection, will save the endangered species from being hunted down for their pelts.
These methods are critical for the conservation of the snow leopards and are based on the fact that any effective conservation efforts depend on the support of the local people. Where did you place the most effective arguments in your paper? Explain your reasoning. How did you address counterarguments without weakening your own premise? The most effective argument lies in the documented fact of assisting the herdsmen erect strong fortification by building concrete pens where their livestock can be kept at night from the attack of predators like fox, lion, tigers and the snow leopard.
This is in exchange for their labour and commitment that they will not hunt nor poison the snow leopard. Giving this documented reason will answer the counter argument of increased herd attack should the snow leopard population increase. Giving the women training and equipment to make camel-wool products and assisting them to sell internationally to regular customers which increase their income by 20 to 40% is an effective strategy towards conservation of the snow leopard. This is because the male herdsmen need not poach the snow leopard any more due to the fact that they have already extra income for their medicine, school bills and food.
This strengthens the argument that increased income will result to protecting the endangered snow leopard as it replaces the need for the herdsmen to poach the leopard for its pellet that fetches good money from the black market. The money also enables them to buy medicine or seek medical attention as they can afford it and hence do not have to continue relying on traditional medicine that is derived from the bones of the snow leopard. Word count: 1510. References Butler, R. A. (2008). How to Save Snow Leopards: An interview with Dr.
Rodney Jackson of the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Retrieved June 04, 2009, from http://news. mongabay. com/2008/1028-interview_jackson. html Kewa. org (2000). Snow Leopard Endangered. Retrieved June 04, 2009, from http://www. kewa. org/snow. html Klappenbach, L. (2003). Snow Leopard Populations in Sharp Decline. In Laura’s Animals / Wildlife Blog. Retrieved June 04, 2009, from http://animals. about. com/b/2003/08/15/snow-leopard-populations-sharp-decline. htm Marshall, S. (2009). Saving the Snow Leopard. Retrieved June 04, 2009, from