Traditionally, the Snow Leopard is considered a sacred animal across Central Asia. However, its survival is threatened by poaching, mining and habitat loss, all exacerbated by the loss of traditional understanding and respect for these animals. Indigenous knowledge on the spiritual aspects of snow leopards was all but lost during the Soviet era and gets weaker every day, and the local communities are largely left out of the conservation efforts of mainstream science.
In order to support the conservation efforts, the grantee will revive the communities’ respect for this cat and help rebuild the connection to the existing sacred sites. Planned activities include:
- Initiation of “Elders and Youth for Conservation of the Snow Leopard,” a programme that will transfer both scientific and traditional conservation knowledge about the high mountain ecosystem, including snow leopards, to younger generations (using booklets, videos, etc.);
- Expansion of the Nomadic Nature Trunks from Mongolia to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. This is a three-week long environmental curriculum for schoolchildren with interactive lessons that include a section on the spiritual importance of snow leopards, a teacher’s manual, costumes, educational games, etc.
Overall, this project hopes to revive traditional cultural practices that protect snow leopards, and to create pathways for meaningful indigenous participation in planning for the conservation of this species. Greater respect and widespread awareness should lead to improved conditions for these threatened cats, along with social, economic and ecological benefits to humans.