The Women for Snow Leopards project will train local women to monitor and estimate snow leopard populations in their region. Understanding population size and trends is critical to evaluating threats and solutions to help inform global conservation efforts to protect these endangered cats. Read Deepshikha’s first-hand account below.
“I visited Kibber village in October to start training women for winter camera trapping. (no physical trapping, only motion-activated research cameras) We spent 5 days training and setting up camera traps in the landscape around Kibber. The cameras were active for the duration of winter.
During the workshop, we discussed how camera trapping is an essential tool for population estimation of species. We learned how to set up, place, and monitor a camera trap and how to use a GPS device. Then we went out in the field and placed the camera traps in 10 locations across the village pastures, where we observed signs of snow leopard-like scat, scraps or scent markings.
Ten women participated in the workshop and are now part of the core camera trapping team in Kibber Village. The youngest is 27 years old and the oldest is 53. Of the ten women, two do not have any formal education and one is a college graduate. However, all of them participated equally. The older women also shared some interesting folk tales about the animals found in their landscape. They were also more knowledgeable about the landscape and guided the younger participants. The younger, more formally educated women helped the older women navigate some technical aspects of the camera traps. It was wonderful to see them partner with and help each other.
Although we had initially planned to remove the camera traps, the team decided to replace the batteries and memory cards in the cameras while keeping them in the same locations. We have now obtained our first set of photos captured by our camera traps!”
Deepshikha and the team will soon begin instruction on “tagging” their captured photos. Tagging is the practice of identifying the species captured and adding that information to the images. After that, Deepshikha expects to work with her team to develop the skills necessary to review the photos using a laptop. They will discuss the ethics of camera trapping (and how to avoid ethical quandaries where possible) and potentially even work with the women to learn how to identify snow leopard individuals captured on camera. This program is so successful that a neighboring village already has an interested group of women eager to be the region’s next team of camera trappers.
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Deepshikha’s Conservation Nation Fellowship was made possible with the support of Catmosphere.org, a foundation dedicated to raising awareness for crucial work in Big Cat conservation.
Photo credits: NCF-India