Villagers save endangered snow leopard
Campaign to save the rare cats may be working
May 13, 1998
Web posted at: 11:43 p.m. EDT (0343 GMT)
From Correspondent Rusty Dornin
JAMALABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Contacts between the endangered
snow leopard and humans in the Himalayas are often deadly --
for the cat. But that might be changing in Pakistan, where
conservationists have been working to educate the villagers
who see the cat as a predator.
Farmers in one Pakistani village recently did something
unusual when they encountered a rare leopard attacking their
"We ran quickly up the hill, and the leopard was attacking a
big goat," villager Ulfat Karim explained. "I had a stick,
which I used to separate the leopard from the goats."
Instead of killing it, the villagers caged the leopard and
fed it, and called the Pakistani World Wildlife Fund for
help. Conservationists say that was a first.
Darla Hillard of the International Snow Leopard Trust was
thrilled "that this villager watching his livelihood
disappear down the mouth of this snow leopard had the
presence to think about not killing it."
Wildlife experts say the response shows that an intensive
educational campaign to save the cat may be working.
An estimated 4,000 to 7,000 snow leopards remain in 12
countries across central Asia. But the people who live in the
mountains and tend goats and sheep usually see the leopard as
endangering their own modest livelihood.
"People come to realize over time that the snow leopard is
worth more alive for ecotourist and for ecosystem
preservation," Hillard said.
"We could have hit it with something and killed it," Karim
said. "But we decided to let it go. There are very few in
Four days after it was caged, the cat was released back to
the wild, with a parting pat by one of her captors.
Still, the treatment of the captured cat while in captivity
by the villagers left something to be desired.
"People have been poking at it," said Rodney Jackson of the
Snow Leopard Trust "They definitely have a perspective on
the cat we'd like to change."