Snow Leopards Need To Be Protected … But How?

In Pakistan, the snow leopard is an endangered species. The big cat is rarely seen, and experts say that its population has likely fallen to fewer that 450 individuals; mainly due to hunting. For a while, no one could think of a good way to protect this species from extinction. Until Shafqat Hussain proposed a controversial idea. Why not classify the snow leopard as a domesticated animal?

His idea stems from the relationship change between humans and snow leopards. Increasingly, snow leopards are sharing their habitat with mountain herders. And a recient study showed that 70 percent of their diet is now made up of sheep, cattle and other domesticated animals. The herders have then killed the snow leopards in retaliation of them preying on their livestock.

So inorder to enable the snow leopards survial, one can’t create protected areas that sequester the snow leopard from local communities, because this tends to alienate farmers; who lose their grazing areas as a result. Hussian instead says that we should support the local herders when the big cats kill one of their animals, so that the farmers can still make a living.

In 1999 Hussian founded the Snow Leopard Project, an insurance scheme which compensates the farmers in snow leopard-range countries if their livestock are killed by the predators.

A snow leopard perched on rocks in Pakistan.

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