Snow Leopard Countries Launch New Conservation Programs

Government representatives from ten of the twelve snow leopard range countries recently gathered in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, with one common goal - the conservation of the endangered snow leopard. It was the first in-person meeting in three years of a remarkable intergovernmental alliance supported by the Snow Leopard Trust. But what brought such a diverse group of sovereign nations together in the first place?

Established in 2013, the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program is a first-of-its-kind alliance between all snow leopard range country governments, conservationists, scientists and organizations to work together to conserve the snow leopard and its mountain ecosystems. Since its creation, the partner Governments have taken unprecedented action for snow leopards, identifying and enhancing protection efforts in 24 mountain landscapes that encompass a quarter of all snow leopard range. 

Under this program, the governments recognize that the conservation of snow leopards and their habitat can only be achieved through the involvement of the people who live in Asia’s high mountains. The program also recognizes that snow leopard conservation is a collective responsibility and must involve local communities, governments, the international community, and the corporate sector. 

Snow leopards live in the high mountains of central and south Asia, also known as the Third Pole. This is among the Earth’s most vulnerable areas affected by climate change – thought to be warming at twice the average rate of warming in the northern hemisphere. These valuable ecosystems provide vital services, including clean water, to a third of the world’s human population. Extreme climate events, disease, and biodiversity loss endanger snow leopards and humanity alike.

At the recent GSLEP Steering Committee Meeting, government delegations, including three ministers and more than 30 senior civil servants from 10 countries, reviewed the ongoing conservation initiatives and discussed ideas and best practices for future priority actions. They discussed climate adaptation programs and innovative financing initiatives to help support the well-being, sustainable development, and conservation engagement of mountain people. 

The delegations shared their experiences implementing conservation initiatives, local community leadership and green development to protect snow leopards. The participants also discussed conservation programs, including climate adaptation initiatives, transboundary cooperation, and sustainable community-based livelihood programs. An exciting new multi-country initiative, Equal One, was launched to support sustainable economic development in Asia’s high mountains through inclusive and conservation-friendly business startups.

In an increasingly globalized world, the transfer of knowledge and information is vital. This is where GSLEP comes in. This meeting was addressed by government luminaries and international conservation organizations, including the Environment Ministers/Vice Ministers of Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia and Uzbekistan, the former minister of Costa Rica and head of the Global Environment Facility, the Vice President of WWF, Head of Biodiversity Unit of UNEP, CEO of GTI Council, Executive Director of Snow Leopard Trust, the Resident Representatives of UNDP in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan; as well as species experts, statisticians and bureaucrats. 

International leaders applauded the work of the GSLEP program. They thanked the snow leopard range countries for recognizing that the future of snow leopards, high-mountain landscapes, and communities is all connected. Snow Leopard Trust Executive Director Dr. Charu Mishra said, “Asia’s twelve countries, home to high mountains and snow leopards, have shown the world how we can set aside our differences and come together to work for nature and wildlife, for local people, and for a better planet.”

Snow leopards are showing us a path toward a more sustainable planet. Together, we will get there.

Snow Leopard Trust is proud to have played a critical role in establishing GSLEP and being the program’s technical and financial partner.

Thank you to our most generous sponsors for supporting the 7th GSLEP Steering Committee Meeting: United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, The Peace Nexus Foundation, WWF, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Global Environment Facility. Special thanks to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology, and Technical Supervision of the Kyrgyz Republic, GSLEP Secretariat and Snow Leopard Foundation in Kyrgyzstan for organizing the event logistics.

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