Asian countries make historic pledge to save the ‘ghost of the mountain’
Joined by conservation experts from around the world and the international donor community, the 12 nations endorsed the Bishkek Declaration on Snow Leopard Conservation and the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program. The declaration marks the first time that governments and non-governmental organizations have teamed up to conserve snow leopards and their habitat.
Like many species, the snow leopard is vulnerable to poaching driven by the illegal wildlife trade. In addition, snow leopards are killed by farmers in retaliation for preying on livestock, and face a declining habitat range due to overgrazing, infrastructure development and the impacts of climate change.
It is estimated that fewer than 7,500 snow leopards remain in the wild. The goal of the initiative is to protect 20 snow leopard landscapes that have over 100 breeding adults by 2020, and to promote sustainable development in areas where the species lives.
“The Forum allowed to attract the world to the problem of snow leopard and its’ habitats conservation. These mountain ecosystems are the home for many species of animals and plants and conserve pure fresh water and huge recreational resources – the base for the sustainable development of mountain regions. This is the home for indigenous people of Central Asia with their traditional way of life” – says Mikhail Paltsyn, WWF Russia senior project coordinator, participant of the SL Forum.
That’s why the snow leopard conservation is not just a matter of rare animal conservation. It’s about the conservation of a base for the sustainable economic development of all mountain territories and local communities, WWF supposes.
“This is a monumental moment for snow leopards. It’s thrilling to see the brightest minds in the field of conservation team together to preserve this iconic cat, but also do it in a way that holds a positive impact beyond the snow leopard,” said WWF Program Manager John Farrington.
WWF works with partners to raise awareness at local, national and regional levels across the snow leopard range countries about the need to conserve the species. Together with the US Agency for International Development, WWF implements climate adaptation projects, for example by expanding protected areas, diversifying livelihoods, and works to improve management of pastures, water and forests.