Saving More Than Just Snow Leopards

February 1, 2014

After many years of hard work and trial and error, real successes are being seen in snow leopard conservation, in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and in northern Pakistan, among other places, as communities come together to manage their land and wildlife, and neighboring countries find ways to cooperate across borders. WCS Asia Program deputy director Peter Zahler and George Schaller, WCS senior conservationist and Panthera VP, explain.

The cold and rugged mountains of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and China seem an unlikely place to find a flourishing combination of new community institutions and international diplomacy. Few people live there. Those who do are mostly desperately impoverished livestock herders. They have been largely isolated from the rest of humanity on these enormous mountains where the Indian subcontinent once crashed into Asia, buckling the earth’s crust and raising peaks over 20,000 feet.

However, despite its isolation — or perhaps because of it — something fascinating has been happening in this cold mountain landscape. Communities are coming together to manage this fragile and unforgiving place, where people scrape a living from sparse alpine pastures. At the same time, neighboring countries are finding ways to cooperate across borders that in recent history have become almost as hostile as the rugged terrain. As odd as it may seem, a big cat is helping to lead the way.


Continue reading the op-ed on the New York Times >>
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