Poaching and human encroachment have been among the most destructive illegal crimes that culled the population of hundreds of animal species. One such species threatened by these is the snow leopard.
Nicknamed mountain ghosts due to its elusive nature, this magnificent large cat roams the high mountains of Central Asia. In a recent report released TRAFFIC, a collaborative effort between the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the population of snow leopards only oscillates around 4,000 or so, according to National Geographic.
Herders Account To More Than Half Of Snow Leopard Killings
TRAFFIC estimates that from 2008 up until recently, between 221 and 450 snow leopard have fallen victim to poaching within those years. This tally was conducted by experts operating in the regions where the cats thrived and added that the higher could be even higher as monitoring illegal trade is quite difficult, said the Huffington Post.
While the snow leopard's population are scattered in 12 different countries, the majority of poaching, accounting 90 percent of the illegal activities, occur in places like India, China, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. However, more than half of those numbers are attributed to herders who kill the cats that prey upon their livestock like sheep or cattle.
In an email exchange with the Huffington Post, Rishi Sharma said that a single leopard can kill up to 20 sheep or goats when it enters a pen. Sharma is among one of the WWF's expert in snow leopard conservation.
"Most of the communities living in the high mountains are impoverished and marginalized and loss of livestock to wild predators has significant bearing on their livelihood," added Sharma. As such, herders who kill a snow leopard in an attempt to protect his livelihood will likely sell the cat's carcass for a profit so that the loss incurred from the attack is reimbursed.
Solutions Offered By Experts To Address Conflict Between Humans And Snow Leopards
To curb this, TRAFFIC suggests that measures in decreasing conflict between herders and snow leopards should be taken. Introducing "predator-proof corrals" to protect livestock and better education for herders to ward off the cat without the need to kill it are among the solutions that were offered.
As for the incentive of killing the animal to reimburse loss, the report suggests that government compensation program should be implemented to give money to herders who lost livestock due to snow leopard encounter. Anti-poaching law and increase vigilance on illegal channels should also be strengthened.
Aside from poaching, climate change also threatens the snow leopard's existence. Scientists believed that if current condition worsens, more than a third of the cat's habitat could disappear.