Nature - Animals
||Bhutan Nature Animals
Leopard: Endangered Species
30 experts including conservationists, scientists and policy makers from
Bhutan, China, Finland, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the UK and the USA met
in Bhutan from 14-17 March 2005 in a workshop that aimed at developing
a regional conservation strategy and action plan for the endangered Snow
Leopard in the Himalayas.
workshop was organised by the WWF Bhutan Programme Office and brought together
government representatives from Bhutan, Nepal and India as well as experts
from the Helsinki Zoo, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development,
the International Snow Leopard Trust, the Snow Leopard Network, various
WWF offices from the region, as well as UK and USA, and TRAFFIC.
The workshop provided an important opportunity for participants to exchange information
about the conservation status of Snow Leopards in the Himalayan sub-region,
review information on existing conservation initiatives and share experiences
and perspectives for the development of a regional conservation strategy
for this elusive cat.
working groups were formed to develop a regional action plan and strategy
that will address illegal trade, human wildlife conflict and habitat degeneration,
the three primary factors threatening the existence of the Snow Leopard
in the Himalayan range. The action plan will be used as a guide for the
programmes to be initiated regionally for Snow Leopard conservation and
in raising funds for this cause. The regional nature of this strategy and
action plan will help to facilitate and foster a collaborative conservation
effort among the range countries, WWF and other conservation organisations
working in South Asia.
Leopards occur in the high mountains of the Central Asia and the Himalayan
region in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia,
Nepal, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. China
has the highest number of Snow Leopards in the Himalayan range while Bhutan,
Nepal, India, and Pakistan together have about 25 % of the total Snow Leopard
population; the remaining are in Central Asia. The species is considered endangered throughout its range.
that there could be around 3 500-7 000 Snow Leopards left in the
wild. However, these numbers are little more than an estimate, Snow
Leopards are difficult to monitor because they are elusive, solitary animals
that live in remote mountain locations of up to 5 500m.
TRAFFIC report "Fading footprints: the killing and trade of snow leopards"
published in 2003 showed that the species and its body parts are being
illegally traded in all 12 range states (with the possible exception of
Bhutan, where little information exists), despite the fact that killing
and trade is strictly prohibited at national and international level. Snow
leopards are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1975, meaning
that international trade in Snow Leopard is strictly prohibited. In addition, the
killing and use of Snow Leopards is prohibited in all range countries.
However, the implementation and enforcement of the legislation in place
is often weak and needs urgent addressing.
threats facing Snow Leopards are mostly economically fuelled: the natural
prey of Snow Leopards has either been eliminated or much reduced due to
overgrazing by livestock, uncontrolled hunting, habitat fragmentation and
other disturbances. Consequently, Snow Leopard have been preying on
domestic livestock which led to conflicts with local herders who depend
on the livestock as their main source of income in the alpine and sub-alpine
regions of the Himalayas. In retaliation, livestock owners may kill Snow
Leopards to protect their livestock. In addition to this, Snow Leopards
are also increasingly subject to killing to supply demand for its pelt
and other body parts.
Snow Leopards pelts are the main parts in demand and often the main motive
for the illegal killings. But other body parts such as bones may also be
used for medicinal purposes. Sometimes live animals are sold for circuses
or private zoos. The pelts are used as wall hangings or in clothing items.
recent years there have been growing concerns about the levels of trade
in Asian Big Cat skins and other wildlife from South Asian countries to
China. Tibet has become an important destination for skins of big cats
such as Tigers, Leopards and Snow Leopards where the skins are used to
trim chubas, the traditional costumes. The use of animal skins has been
a tradition in Amdo, eastern Tibet. However, in recent years this tradition
was been revived in Amdo, and now has also become fashionable and a symbol
of status and wealth in Lhasa and other Tibetan communities in China. In
2003, the Tibetan Autonomous Region seized 1 392 animal skins including
31 Bengal Tigers, 581 Leopards, 786 Otter and two Lynx skins pieces.
an expanding presence in China and its South Asia regional programme about
to be launched, TRAFFIC is well-positioned to play a key role in helping
to address trade threats to Snow Leopards and other Asian Big Cats. Activities
will include enforcement support along the main trade routes and collaboration
between TRAFFIC East Asia and WWF China Programme office to gain a better
understanding of the cultural and other factors driving skin demand in
Tibet and design educational and awareness-raising approaches on the basis
of this knowledge.
TRAFFIC, April 12, 2005
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