Building Better Corrals in Ladakh

Villagers from small herding communities in Ladakh are teaming up with Snow Leopard Trust field staff to improve the corrals where they keep their livestock and reduce conflicts with snow leopards and other predators.

The remote Rong valley in Ladakh is home to a sizeable snow leopard population. It’s also dotted with small villages, most of which are inhabited by herder families. As snow leopards and other predators prey on these communities’ livestock, conflicts between people and wildlife are a fact of life in this region.

a wild snow leopard in the Indian Himalayas
a wild snow leopard in the Indian Himalayas

Last year, a team of Snow Leopard Trust researchers visited the village of Tarchit to assess the extent of these conflicts. During the day, all of Tarchit’s livestock were brought to pastures above the village by appointed herders to graze. However, the animals would spend the night unguarded in their owners’ corrals – where they regularly fell victim to predation.

Villagers reported losing about 70 goats and sheep to snow leopards in 2012 alone – almost 20% of the community’s total livestock holdings.

Predictably, attitudes toward the snow leopard weren’t too positive.

In previous years, our team had visited various other villages in Ladakh, and reactions were similar across the board. Now, they knew what needed to be done: Build better corrals!

a sturdy new corral for a family in Tarchit
a sturdy new corral for a family in Tarchit

After Snow Leopard Trust supporters provided the necessary funds in spring, our team went back to Tarchit this summer, loaded with construction materials such as wire mesh, poles and sturdy doors and frames for 17 new corrals – one for each Tarchit family with livestock. Together with the community, they built strong walls using local materials and affixed a wire-mesh on top with poles to support it.

The local community has promised to keep track of all predation to see how much of a difference these new corrals are making.

a little break for a quick smile
a little break for a quick smile

In the village of Skidmang, where our teams helped improve communal corrals the previous year, the effects are already being felt: While in 2012, 25 livestock had been killed inside their old corral, only 2 animals were lost in 2013, after the new corrals had been built – and both of those were taken out on the open pasture. The villagers are very pleased, and attitudes toward the cat that’s sharing their mountainous home are improving.

Before the big snowfalls cut Rong valley off from the rest of India, our team hopes to complete corrals in at least two more villages, if time and funds allow.

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