Herders of Tyva protect cattle to save the snow leopard
The Republic of Tyva is the only region of Russia where the conflict between snow leopard and the herders occur. The habitats of the rare predator are located close to the upland pastures of thelocal communities. A cattle is the base for the livelihood of the local people of Tyva. Trying to save the cattle by all means the herders can attack the snow leopard and kill the animal even being absolutely aware of the strict punishment for the treat to the species.
In 2017 WWF and it partner, World Around You Foundation of Siberian Wellness Corporation, revived the project to diminish human-wildlife conflict in Tyva. In 2019 several herders’ corrals (closed sheds for cattle) in Mongun-Taiga Districts of the Republic of Tyva were chosen for the project in the very snow leopard habitats where the attacks on cattle have occurred for the last several years. Nine corrals have been reinforced and repaired. The holes on the roofs of the corrals were covered by simple metal mesh. The snow leopards get into the corrals right through these holes usually at night and attack cattle. Simple but effective trick of covering the holes with mesh works well. Moreover three electrical fences were installed for the open sheds to protect the cattle. In May the experts of WWF, local partners and journalists made a checking tour around the project sites to talk to the herders about the outcomes.
The project to diminish the level of human-wildlife conflict in Tyva was supported also by VTB Bank, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Tyva Republic. WWF chose the Bai-Taiginsky and Mongun-Taiginsky districts of the Tyva Republic as the project sites as the largest number of snow leopard attacks occur in these areas. All herders who agreed to join the project had 200-500 livestock units on an average (goats, yaks, cows or horses). All herders repirted on the attacks of the snow leopard on livestock, some of them found snow leopard tracks not far than 30-50 meters away from the corral. On an average a herder lost up to several tens of livestock from snow leopard attacks.
In 2016-2017 prior to the active phase of the project the experts surveyed the snow leopard habitats in Southwestern Tyva where the snow leopard attacks used to take place. They defined the herders’ sites and pastures for project implementation. All herders reported on livestock attacks. In 2018 the experts repaired 20 corrals at the 18 sites where the herders had cattle in Mongun-Taiga and Bai-Taiga Districts. The experts covered ventilation holes in corrals with metal mesh, helped repair the shabby corrals. All herders live in the are that is key for snow leopard conservation on the Shapshal ridge. All cattle-breeder who agreed to join the project had to sign the agreement to agree to save the snow leopard.
Besides the herders for the first time in Tyva were provided and trained to operate the specific light and sound repellers to care away the predators in the open spaces. The herders reported that the devices worked out very well, they managed to keep the wolves out of the reach of the livestock. The devices are easy to use and move when moving places. They are used every day to scare away the predators. No cases of the snow leopards’ attacks have been reported in the area so far.
The electrical fences have been installed in Bai-Taiga Districts as an experimental measure to protect the yaks in the open sheds (in fence). The electrical fences receive the energy through two solar panels installed close to the fences. The herders quickly learned to work with electric fences and transport the fences while moving places. So all modern tools of preventing predators’ attacks on livestock were reported effective.
The project history in the Tyva Republic
In 2002 WWF and partners tested livestock insurance in Tyva as the measure to protect the snow leopard and make peace with herders. RESO-Garantiya Open Insurance Company became the project partner. Totally 78,843 livestock units were insured. Eight attacks were registered and several cases were deemed insured events. About $720 was the maximum compensation paid to the herder for the proved case of the snow leopard attack. Unfortunately the project was not successful due to the hard condition of experts’ working. Difficult terrain, long distance, ill-conceived pay system, falsification of information by herders contributed to the poor results.
WWF and partners implemented the project on strengthening sheep barns (roof ventilation holes in sheep barns were covered with mesh). As the results of this simple but effective measures snow leopards haven’t attacked livestock in sheep barns (since 2008–2010).
WWF revived the project on addressing human-wildlife conflict in Tyva. Totally 29 sites were protected from snow leopard attacks (mesh), 3 electrical fences were installed, 8 light and sound repellers, 29 herders became “Snow Leopard Keepers” and signed the Agreement on the Conservation of the Predator. Today 27% of the key habitats of snow leopards in the Russian Federation are covered with the project.