Snow Leopards in Peril
The elusive snow leopard is in danger of becoming even more scarce in Central Asia, with only approximately 7,000 left in the wild, and those mostly in China. While bleak, this figure is in fact an improvement from 1,000, which was the estimated number of snow leopards in the 1960s.
At Akshiyrak and Engilchek, two villages In Kyrgyzstan’s Issykkul region, a U.S.-based organization called the Snow Leopard Trust is trying to help people increase their household income in a way that also helps protect snow leopards and their habitat.
Together with local partners, the Snow Leopard trust provides herders with training and equipment to produce handicrafts using wool from their livestock. These products are marketed at stores in the United States and through the Snow Leopard Trust’s website.
In return, participating communities agree not to kill snow leopards or the wild animals that they eat. If even one person violates the contract, the entire community loses a cash bonus made available at the end of each year.
As is the case elsewhere in the world, modernity has harshly impacted the ecosystem in Central Asia. There are too many wolves, too few snow leopards, and with a few key exceptions, not much willpower or money to alter the situation (if one believes that is even possible at this point; Michael Crichton, for one, places little faith in humanity’s ability to “fix” complex systems).