How the power of nature conservation
fosters international cooperation
Seattle, WA | September 22, 2022
The BBVA Foundation’s Biodiversity Conservation Awards honored Snow Leopard Trust with its Worldwide Award in recognition of its role in helping to create and support the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), a first-of-its-kind alliance between 12 governments, conservationists, scientists and other organizations to work together for the conservation of the threatened snow leopard and its mountain ecosystems.
“We’re thrilled that this award recognizes the remarkable coming together of sovereign nations, all united by snow leopards, to set a path-breaking model of cooperative nature conservation,” said Snow Leopard Trust Executive Director Dr. Charu Mishra. “It’s a model many other groups – and even countries – could learn from and emulate.”
Exact numbers are unknown, but it is believed that there may be as few as 4,000 and no more than 6,300 snow leopards left in the wild. Accurate population estimates are crucial to inform conservation efforts. The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program, in collaboration with the 12 governments and more than 40 organizations, is facilitating the first scientifically robust, large-scale study to determine the size and range of the current population, with results due within a year. This iconic species faces many threats, including illegal hunting, loss of prey, habitat loss, retribution killings for livestock loss and climate change.
GSLEP was created in 2013 when officials, politicians and conservationists arrived at a common conservation strategy enshrined in the Bishkek Declaration (2013) to cooperate in the conservation of the cat and its habitat. The GSLEP Secretariat staff, coordinated by Dr. Koustubh Sharma, have worked tirelessly over these years to support and assist the critical work undertaken by governments and conservationists across Asia’s high mountains.
The snow leopard’s range spans two million square kilometers and extends across 12 Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). This ecosystem provides vital services, including clean water to a third of the world’s human population.
GSLEP has identified 24 protection areas covering 25% of the species’ range. Conservation measures are already being implemented with the support of each country’s authorities, the scientific community, NGOs, companies and local communities. Anti-poaching patrols, fencing to protect livestock from snow leopard attacks (which prevents conflict with local communities), sustainable livelihood programs, nature tourism projects, and environmental education programs to raise awareness of the value of conserving snow leopards are all proving to be effective.
“This award is a milestone moment in the nearly 10-year journey of the GSLEP Program, and a testament to the remarkable conservation collaboration by range country governments and various international and national organizations,” says Dr. Koustubh Sharma, International Coordinator, GSLEP Secretariat. “It’s also a fitting recognition of the magnificent snow leopard as a symbol of Asia’s globally important high mountain ecosystems.”
Snow Leopard Trust is deeply honored by this generous award and looks forward to continued collaboration with the 12 governments and other members of GSLEP to conserve snow leopards and their critically important habitat.
“As a top predator, the snow leopard serves as a thermometer of the health of the ecosystem it represents,” says Charu. “While its extinction could lead to cascading effects disrupting the natural food chain, I think, more importantly, future generations will not forgive us if we allow that to happen. We owe it to our children to protect this amazing species.”
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About Snow Leopard Trust:
Snow Leopard Trust, a 501c-3 Seattle-based non-profit organization, is the recognized world leader in snow leopard research and conservation, with operations throughout Central and South Asia. As a technical and financial partner of the GSLEP Program, the Snow Leopard Trust works to protect the threatened snow leopard and its mountain ecosystem through community-based conservation, rigorous science, conservation education, and international cooperation.
The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program is an intergovernmental alliance of snow leopard range countries and partner organizations to implement the Bishkek Declaration (2013 and 2017) to protect and recover snow leopard populations and their fragile habitats. The GSLEP Secretariat is hosted by the Kyrgyz Government and technically and financially supported currently by the Snow Leopard Trust, United Nations Environment Program, Global Environment Facility and United Nations Development Program.
Based in Spain, the BBVA Foundation Awards for Biodiversity Conservation seek to recognize and support the work done by conservationist organizations, institutions and agencies in carrying forward environmental conservation policies and projects and the efforts of communication professionals who have placed their abilities at the service of protecting our natural heritage.