October 22, 2016
The global snow leopard population stands estimated at around 5,000 individuals spread over 2 million square kilometers of habitat across the mountains of the Himalayas and Central Asia, spanning 12 countries. Stories from much of the snow leopard range paint a dismal future for this endangered cat, but Bhutan presents a Story of Hope.
The Bhutan Foundation in partnership with the Jigme Dorji National Park, the communities of Yutoed, Yaksa, and Nubri, and Department of Livestock Services have embarked on a journey to not only support the conservation of this endangered cat, but also create opportunities for success within the communities through initiatives in health, education, and livestock management.
Snow Leopard Conservation Project
The Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation project is an integrated approach to conserve an important snow leopard region in Bhutan. We believe that bring- ing benefits from conservation to local communities will encourage resident communities to actively participate in snow leopard conservation, which in turn can only succeed with their support. Yak-herding communities will benefit from improved health care, live- stock husbandry, and education services and income generation from tourism and related initiatives; snow leopards will benefit from protection by the local communities. It is a win-win situation.
Jomolhari Gid Control Program
Reducing yak mortality allows herders to tolerate some inevitable losses to the snow leopard. Their attitude towards endangered snow leopards can remain positive if conservation brings them direct benefits. Since the implementation of the gid disease reduction program by the Livestock Officer and yak herders the incidence of yak calf mortality to gid in the area has dropped from 34 percent in 2013 to 8 percent in 2016. With reduced yak mortality due to disease, herders can better tolerate some loss of yaks to natural predators such as snow leopards and wild dogs.
Jomolhari School Among Snow Leopards
Despite Bhutan’s tremendous progress toward achieving universal access to primary education, in some regions, geography and climate can impede school attendance and access to supplies. The Bhutan Foundation is taking action by suppoting the multifaceted “School Among Snow Leopards” initiative, an important component of the Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program. Due to cold climatic conditions, the highland schools are, often, closed early. They also face a lack of educational materials, teaching aids, and supplies for the students. The lessons are taught in a dark and cold room. The program seeks to tap into the full potential of these students and provide them with a supportive setting that complements learning alongside values of conservation, community development, and livelihood sustainability. In this way, we hope to improve educational opportunities for the children of Soe by providing an educational setting that enables them to succeed, and create awareness about conservation of the community’s surrounding environment. Thus through this program the Bhutan Foundation supported the building of a new school for the Soe community children which has better lighting, insulation, and adequate space, including a library.
Jomolhari Nomad Health Camp
For many communities living in Bhutan’s rural areas, access to health care is limited and challenging. Most of the families in these communities are yak herders living in high altitudes, far removed from motor accessible roads. Nevertheless health workers in Bhutan walk through rugged terrain and high altitude to see patients and provide outreach. Thus, in collaboration with the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health (FNPH) health check-ups are conducted for all members of the Yutoed, Yaksa, and Nubri communities during Jomolhari Mountain Festival. The Jomolhari Mountain festival is an opportune time during which all these communities gather in Soe Yutoed. As health care is free in Bhutan, all health services will be provided free of cost to the patients.