Working with Local People Pays off for Snow Leopard Conservationists

Snow Leopard by Tim Williams. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Snow Leopard by Tim Williams. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I would like to share an article I found on the blog of one of my favorite NGOs: the Snow Leopard Trust. It is a question and answer session with Kalzang Gurmet and Tanzin Thinley, who are conservationists in Spiti, India.

While the entire post is worth a read, there are two points that stick out to me in particular. The first is that by cultivating strong relationships with local people, it is possible to change negative attitudes towards large carnivores. Both Gurmet and Thinley tell stories about how individuals who were originally wary of snow leopard conservation have now become trusted allies. In one case, a man who once hated snow leopards (Panthera uncia) is now an avid participant in the scientists’ programs. In another, a village leader who initially distrusted the scientists now protects their camera traps.

The second main takeaway from this interview is that working with local people can pay off in unexpected ways. Gurmet and Thinley both became conservationists as a result of personal experiences with Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science & Conservation Director and interim Acting Executive Director. Learning about wildlife from Dr. Mishra started them on the path to becoming active snow leopard researchers. So being present in local communities does more than just improve people’s perceptions of wildlife: it can motivate them to become scientists themselves.

Please read this excellent post from the Snow Leopard Trust and NCF India. It does an excellent job of highlighting the importance of being a part of local communities.

Click here for the Q&A Session with Kalzang Gurment and Tanzin Thinley

16 Thoughts

  1. Lovely idea! Including local people is always a sure way to succeed in raising awareness or any other projects that concern them. Great read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The Snow Leopard Trust is one of the best at working with local people. They vaccinate herders’ livestock against disease, help them find ways to protect livestock from predators, and introduce programs that diversify local peoples’ incomes. This past summer they even helped their partner communities in Pakistan rebuild their villages after devastating floods destroyed them. You can read more about them here:

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like that your blog helps someone like me learn about the psychological relationship of animal and human life. I am finding that learning the way the both interact and are inter-related helps relieve some of the fear and anxiety about the unknown.. I saw this first-hand while spending a year at Walter Reed Military Center caring for a family member.. Many of the comfort animals are used to provide emotional support for recovering Warriors. There was a healing relationship developed between the two..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words! Using comfort animals is such an excellent therapeutic technique. The unconditional love that dogs show for people who treat them well is a powerful force. In fact I have a friend who’s training his dog to become a therapy dog.

      Of course the lives of humans and wild animals are also inter-related. This is often a one-sided relationship, however. As human societies expand many animal populations fall: mostly due to habitat loss and direct persecution. But we also depend on these wild animals, because they help maintain the ecosystems that we rely on for our survival.

      However, it’s not all doom-and-gloom. There are cases where people take great pride in their local wildlife. They go to great lengths to bring them back from the brink of extinction, and seek non-lethal ways to reduce the damage sometimes caused by large animals. It’s these sorts of relationships that we need to foster.

      Lastly, how we treat other people has the potential to influence how we treat animals. I’ve come across scientific books which state that the same values which underlie compassion towards other humans also motivate compassion towards animals. This is one of the reasons I’m so opposed to hate and fear-based messaging, besides the obvious moral justifications.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Josh for thoroughly and eloquently showing your passion on behalf of the wildlife for the enlightenment of others. This world would be a better place if we all were opposed to hate and fear-based messaging, and we used our knowledge and words to empower and uplift others instead.

        Liked by 1 person

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