[botswanapredatorforum] Re: Report on Setata Fence

  • From: Dereck Joubert <wildfilm@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <botswanapredatorforum@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2008 16:44:41 +0200

Did you see this on the wire Sat...
Does anyone feel there are applications in Botswana?
 Saturday, 16 June 2007
 By Julian Cribb   
  snow leopard     
  With only 3,000 to 7,000 individuals left in the wild
  across the Himalayas, the snow leopard is one of the
  rarest and most elusive creatures in the world.
 From time immemorial, shepherds in the Himalayan mountains of Baltistan, in
northern Pakistan, have hated the snow leopard as
 much as their Australian counterparts disliked dingos. Half the Balti
economy comes from domesticated goats that are prey to
 the snow leopard, largely because its traditional wild food ­ the ibex and
markhor ­ are almost gone. So local herders do not
 hesitate to kill the snow leopard, which is also at risk from the illegal
trade in its highly-prized pelt.
 Yale University researcher Shafqat Hussain, who originally trained as an
economist, created Project Snow Leopard (PSL) in
 1998 to try to save the snow leopard in Baltistan. This non-profit
conservation programme combines ecotourism and low-cost
 insurance, protecting herders against attacks by the leopards on their
livestock. The plan is helping local people realize
 that one cat alive in the surrounding bush is worth more to them than
several killed for the fur trade.
 Hussain, who describes the snow leopard as ³a marvel of nature¹s
perfection², explains that, sitting at the top of the food
 chain, this animal plays a key role in maintaining the mountain ecosystem.
Dr Ma Ming, of the Snow Leopard Trust in Xinjiang,
 China, calls it an ³umbrella species²: protecting it ensures its habitat
and many other local species are also preserved.
 Wonderfully adapted for the extreme weather and rocky terrain, the snow
 roams wild at altitudes up to 5,500 metres in the Himalayan peaks. Furry
feet help it stay on top of the snow by acting as
 natural snowshoes. This rare creature hunts alone for wild and domesticated
goats and other prey, which it pounces upon from
 up to 15 metres away. With a total population estimated at between 4,000
and 7,000 scattered across the Himalayas, including
 fewer than 150 in Baltistan, the snow leopard is listed as ³endangered² on
the IUCN (the World Conservation Union) Red List
 of Threatened Animals.
 This elusive relative of the tiger and more familiar African leopard is one
of the least photographed, but most photogenic of
 big cats, with its metre-long tail and handsome dappled coat.
 The insurance scheme set up by Hussain compensates villagers for every goat
killed by the predators, which effectively deters
 the villagers from killing the offending cat or any other suspect. The
annual premium paid is one per cent of the value of
 one goat, with each herder paying according to the number of goats he owns.
This covers about half of all claims. The other
 half comes from Full Moon Night Trekking, the ecotourism agency Hussain
founded, which advertises the snow leopard as its
 chief attraction. 
 ³People who find pleasure in the idea of the snow leopard surviving in the
wild should be willing to pay for this pleasure,
 and this payment helps offset the losses to farmers for having the cat
around,² he says. To succeed, both complementary
 programmes must be profitable, another reason for locals to protect the
animal at the heart of the project. A key aspect of
 the scheme¹s success is the fact that local people participate at every
level. Village committees collect premiums, pay
 claims and act as the scheme¹s financial watchdog. Villagers control the
income from Full Moon, using surplus profits for
 community projects, like making wells for drinking water. Full Moon also
employs two villagers as guides.
 Until recently Project Snow Leopard covered a relatively small area of 170
square kilometres embracing the environs of the
 village of Skoyo, which has 260 inhabitants, and other nearby settlements.
With support from his Rolex Award, Hussain is now
 extending his project to more Balti villages near Skoyo and K2, the world¹s
second highest mountain. He also hopes to attract
 more ecotourists, many of whom are staying away because of the 2005
earthquake and bad publicity about Pakistan in the wake
 of 9/11. Hussain points out that Baltistan is very much associated with
adventure tourism, but he wants it to be known for
 ecotourism. ³Things can change and other trekking companies now mention
wildlife in their brochures because Full Moon started
 to do it,² he says. ³In Nepal [also home to snow leopards], they have about
200,000 visitors per year; here in Baltistan, we
 only have about 5,000.²
 The added funding will also allow him to build better fences to protect
livestock and to update the counting of leopards,
 mainly by automatic unmanned cameras dotted across the mountain landscape.
Hussain¹s broader vision is to demonstrate that
 human villagers and feline predators can live side by side. By involving
local people, he is gradually convincing the
 villagers that man and beast can profitably coexist. He sees it as ³sadly
ironic² that in many places there is more concern
 for endangered biodiversity than for humans. ³No matter how charismatic an
animal is, its survival should not come at the
 cost of poor human farmers,² Hussain says. But he adds that he is ³only one
of many who are trying to make a difference for
 snow leopards and herders², pointing out that his project would not survive
without local colleagues who run the scheme when
 he is in London and at Yale University writing his Ph.D. thesis on the
relationship between human societies and the natural
 environment in the mountains of northern Pakistan.
 His innovative idea of enlisting local support and willingness to challenge
widely accepted ideas have won him many admirers,
 including Rodney Jackson, the renowned snow leopard authority who won a
Rolex Award in 1981 for his work to save them.
 ³Hussain¹s work is groundbreaking, especially since he brings the social
and ecological sciences together,² Jackson says. ³My
 impression is that Hussain¹s original programme is more effective [than
similar ones inspired by his scheme], thoroughly
 designed and appropriately implemented.²


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