Each year, the Snow Leopard Conservancy issues an annual update on its efforts to help save the elusive and endangered big cat of the Himalayas. The organization is very familiar to the Indianapolis Zoo through its founder and co-director Dr. Rodney Jackson, a three-time finalist for the Indianapolis Prize. Watch Rodney Jackson in action in this stunning video from the 2012 Indianapolis Prize Gala. The 2012 report was recently released and brings news of a new collaboration among the Conservancy, the Bhutan Foundation, the Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division, and the Jigme Dorji National Park in Bhutan.
First, a bit about Bhutan
, a country most Americans would not recognize. The Kingdom of Bhutan (it became a constitutional monarchy in 2008) is land-locked and located at the eastern end of the Himalayas. It sits essentially at the intersection of a number of other countries, including China, India, and Nepal. Relatively small (about 18,000 square miles and a population of around a quarter of a million people), Bhutan features a wide array of geography and a tremendously varied and interesting number of native animals. In the photo (left, from the Snow Leopard Conservancy), Dr. Jackson (left) and Tshewang Wangchuk (next to Jackson), are shown during their 2012 trip to Bhutan to initiate the new project.
In the lower and warm southern part of Bhutan, Bengal tigers, sloth bears and one-horned rhinoceros can be found. Moving further north and up the mountain slope you find red pandas, barking deer and Himalayan black bears. At the top of the country’s mountains come the Tibetan wolf, antelope, blue sheep, and the magnificent snow leopard.
As Snow Leopard Conservancy founder and president Rodney Jackson and board of trustees member Tshewang Wangchuk report, this small Asian nation is famous for its unique development philosophy – Gross National Happiness (GNH). Among the principles involved are equitable and sustainable development, good governance, cultural preservation, and the most important one to those concerned with saving wildlife and wild places, environmental conservation. Photo by Rodney Jackson by Matt Mays.
Fortunately, over 72 percent of Bhutan’s forests remain, and more than a third of the country falls within a protected area. But, say Jackson and Wangchuk, “…there are challenges to conservation, including human-wildlife conflicts, unsustainable consumption of forest resources, poaching, and climate change that brings unpredictable weather patterns, floods, and landslides.” Note one of the beautiful valleys of Bhutan in this photo from Conservancy.
So, these two intrepid conservationists are headed to the other side of the world to work with the people of Bhutan. Their destination? Jigme Dorji National Park
in the northwestern part of Bhutan, an area accessible mostly by foot at altitudes of more than 13,000 feet. Jackson and Wangchuk plan to visit two mountain communities to open a dialog that will create “local partnerships aimed at alleviating the conflicts between people and wildlife.”
Overall, the goals of the Bhutan project include inviting community members to assist in surveying snow leopards and their prey species, seeking opportunities for collaborative actions that combine conservation with advancing the economic security of the native populations, and sharing information and ideas with local authorities.
This ambitious, but very doable, project is emblematic of the work and progress the staff of the Conservancy has accomplished. It’s an effort we both applaud and support. Learn more at the Conservancy’s website