Sunday, August 06, 2006

Snow Leopard Fights for Survival in Nepal

Snow Leopard Fights for Survival in Nepal

 

Little quarter given to the 'Queen of the Mountains'

 

Rupa Kharel (rupi)     

 

Published 2006-08-06 15:01 (KST)   

 

 

Culturally rich, Nepal is also picturesque, thanks to a profusion of natural attractions. The ecology of the Himalayan region ranks at the top in tourist appeal, having such an important and attractive wild animal as the snow leopard (Uncia uncia).

 

Because its pelts command such a high price, the snow leopard is considered as a threatened species. It typifies the environmental balance of the entire Himalayan region and is called the "Queen of the Mountains."

 

A valuable and rare gift of nature, it has earned recognition as an indicator of the region's environmental health.

 

The conservation, management, study, and research done with this wild cat are thus a great opportunity for the world. It is also the responsibility of the Nepalese people to preserve the snow leopard and spread awareness about such a rare and wonderful specimen to keep it from extinction.

 

The snow leopard is one of the world's preserved wild animals and is found in mountainous and cool regions of 12 countries of mid-Asia. The snow leopard is declining in numbers in other Asian countries where it is found, not only in Nepal. Despite various conservation programs, its survival is cannot be taken for granted, thus the goal should be to strengthen these programs so that we can hand over this magnificent creature to the next generation.

 

The National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act-2029 has kept it on List Number 1, which entitles it to full protection. Other animals included on List 1 are the most protected animals, and if someone kills, injures, or trades an individual specimen, he/she is liable to a fine of Rs 50,000 - 100,000 (US$694 - $1,389) and/or a five-to-ten-year jail term. Likewise, anyone who aids or abets such crimes will be liable for the same punishment.

 

It is also contained in Act-2029 that anyone lodging information about a person planning to kill or wound a snow leopard could be entitled to a Rs 50,000 reward.

 

Likewise, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of World Flora and Fauna) has also given it a Number 1 listing and restricted its being traded internationally.

 

Despite this, no wholly satisfactory protection exists for the Queen of the Mountains. Hunting for its pelts and bones, deforestation, lack of prey, aggressive behavior by locals, and lack of education have reduced its numbers.

 

The CITES Twelfth Conference of Parties (COP-12) urged a special effort to include educating locals. Additionally, CITES has included the snow leopard in the group of Asian Big Cats.

 

The government of Nepal is also implementing different programs to preserve the snow leopard, including educating the work force and locals. Different programs have been started in the National Park and Conservation Areas of mountainous regions where the snow leopard is found. A conservation area has been created in Se-Fuksundo National Park, in addition to the Annapurna, Manaslu, and Kanchanjunga conservation areas, governed by different management committees.

 

Likewise, thousands of consumer groups, forestry interest groups, tourist management sub-committees, and mid-area management committees are directly or indirectly active in conservation programs. The government of Nepal has been involved, with the help of NGOs and international NGOs.

 

With eight of its highest mountains affording a habitat for the snow leopard, Nepal attracts leopard-watchers. The spin-offs from conservation efforts can be fruitful for the overall development of mountainous regions as well as providing tourist attractions.

 

Habitat destruction created by human activity can be reduced by increasing awareness, which serves conservation and develops the tourism sector. A long-lasting strategy to conserve the species will involve locals in development activities like tourism, small cottage industries, and traditional industries near conservation areas.

 

It is essential to know that the Queen of the Mountains will be conserved only by the attempts of people, especially locals, but its survival can't be guaranteed based on just the small efforts of locals, even with outside assistance.

 

By creating effective conservation programs, encouraging the positive efforts of locals, implementing rules and regulations strongly and quickly, implementing new and effective programs, doing surveys and research about the current status of the snow leopard can be a significant contribution to its preservation.

 

Thus, to merge the general development of local awareness with income-generating programs is the best way to conserve the magnificent Queen of the Mountains.

 

The countries where the snow leopard is found and its estimated numbers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

©2006 OhmyNews 

 

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