Conservation Rooted in Community

Our upcoming virtual event on October 3rd-4th will feature some amazing stories and conversations. Two of these tales will feature Prasenjeet Yadav, molecular biologist turned photographer, whose work was featured in the EVEREST issue of National Geographic. Get a sneak peek of what’s to come! 

Leap beyond the pages

For over a hundred years, National Geographic has been transporting us to far-off lands and adventure, helping us develop a deep appreciation of our natural world, page after captivating page. In the recent EVEREST issue, National Geographic takes readers to the Roof of the World where the air is thin and the ghost of the mountain can be seen disappearing over a distant ridgeline. 

National Geographic’s July 2020 issue takes you on a journey to the Roof of the World.

During our upcoming virtual fundraising event, you will have the opportunity to leap beyond the pages of the magazine and be even further immersed in this landscape by joining a riveting conversation with Pransenjeet Yadav, whose work was featured in the EVEREST issue. Prasenjeet will be joined by Snow Leopard Trust’s Executive Director, Dr. Charu Mishra and then again with Dr. Kullu Suryawanshi, Snow Leopard Trust’s Director of High Altitude Programs. 

Prasenjeet will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this feature story, bringing this elusive species and the communities that share its habitat into focus. You will be swept into the world of treacherous roads, icy cliffs, layers of wool, steaming cups of chai, community based conservation, and of course our favorite elusive cat.  

Learn about the origins of our community-based conservation programs

Huddled around our virtual wood burning stove, you will hear stories about Charu, who as a young university student, immersed himself in village life in Kibber for over two years. He surveyed pastures, taught math, played cricket, helped with chores, and joined the youth club. He earned the respect of the community and, as author Peter Gwin writes in the National Geographic article, “Parents told their children, you can be like Charu.” 

We hope you will join Prasenjeet (far left), Kullu (middle), and Charu (far right) for their storytelling sessions during the event.

After years of building trust and authentic partnerships with community members, Charu’s initial plan to study the impact domestic animals have on wildlife in Spiti Valley turned into the Livestock Insurance Program. This program continues to run and be adapted today by team members such as Kullu in order to compensate herders for instances of livestock depredation. Charu and Kullu’s early involvement with communities in the high Himalayas is evident in the  community-led conservation work that is carried out by Snow Leopard Trust staff today. 

Weaving roots & building bridges

In addition to working with National Geographic, Prasenjeet recently authored and photographed a gorgeous piece on NPR, called Living Tree Bridges in a Land of Clouds. Much like snow leopard habitat, these photos and their surrounding story can only be described as otherworldly. 

Two villagers cross the longest-known living-root bridge on a misty morning. The bridge is over 160 feet long and hangs over a 230-foot-deep river valley. Photo by Prasenjeet Yadav

This work of art features the northeast Indian state of Meghalaya, which translates to “abode of the clouds,” an image that is also conjured when people think of snow leopards wandering high mountain peaks. Prasenjeet explains that this terrain is home to the Khasi people, a mountain tribe that has made this harsh landscape its own for centuries.

The tribe grows enchanting bridges using raw materials, including fig trees which are cultivated for 10-15 years until the tree produces a network of aerial roots. The bridge builders then slowly coax and mold these roots across opposing sides of the river by weaving them together piece by piece.

A single Ficus elastica tree forms the backbone of a double-decker bridge near the village of Nongriat in the Indian state of Meghalaya. Photo by Prasenjeet Yadav

This ancient method takes years as these collections of knots slowly inch closer to one another, before eventually closing the gap and fusing together through a process known as anastomosis.

This is such a beautiful metaphor for what we are currently experiencing on a global level as we navigate the pandemic. We may be in separate spaces across our cities, towns, villages, neighborhoods—even on the other side of the world—but bit by bit we are creatively figuring out ways to reach one another and remain connected. These living bridges are a testament to patience, endurance, trust, and ingenuity, which are all critical for successful conservation programs. 

Join together for conservation

On October 3rd and 4th, Prasenjeet will share more about his process of capturing these images in their unique light, which sometimes involves spending hours upon hours laying on a sheet of ice waiting for the perfect snow leopard image. In both the examples of the living tree bridges and the snow leopard expeditions, questions arise surrounding eco-tourism and how that can be practiced in a positive, sustainable way that is rooted in community needs and addresses environmental sensitivities.  

Join us October 3-4 to protect these majestic cats and support the communities who share their mountain home. Photo by Prasenjeet Yadav

If you haven’t already seen it, please check out the Live Chat we held with Prasenjeet and National Geographic author Peter Gwin to get a preview of what life and storytelling is like on the roof of the world. Also… rumor has it, a signed copy of the National Geographic EVEREST issue by Peter may just make an appearance in our Live Auction lineup, along with a year’s subscription to the magazine. (Thank you, Peter!) So please stay tuned and register for our upcoming event for more details. 

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