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Guest post: Snow Leopard Trust
Blank Park Zoo Turns Inspiration into Action!
By Marissa B. Niranjan, Zoo programs manager at Snow Leopard Trust
Exquisite, elusive, and endangered, the snow leopard makes its home in some of the harshest, most remote environments of our world. Uniquely adapted to the high mountains of Central Asia, their thick, spotted fur makes them virtually invisible to the naked eye while keeping them warm in sub-zero temperatures. With long, muscular tails (up to 40 inches long!) that act as a rudder, these felines often leap spectacular distances to catch prey and balance on the most precarious of rocky ledges- some have been seen roaming at elevations of over 16,000 feet (4,877m)!
Snow leopard cub in Spiti, India - Photo Credit: Rishi Sharma SLT-NCF
For centuries, snow leopards have ruled the mountains, thriving in the snowy peaks. Today, however, they walk a delicate path between life and extinction. Listed on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened and Endangered Species, snow leopards share the same status as the giant panda and the tiger.
Snow leopards face multiple threats:
- Illegal hunting by poachers for their fur and bones,
- Loss of habitat as humans and their livestock take over more space, and
- The decline of natural prey.
Scientists currently estimate as few as 4,000 cats remain in the wild, distributed across twelve countries in Central Asia.
Founded in 1981, the Snow Leopard Trust is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the endangered snow leopard. The oldest and largest organization focused solely on snow leopard conservation, the Trust currently partners with 72 zoos worldwide, including the Blank Park Zoo, and is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, European Association of Zoos and Aquaria and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Most importantly, over the past 30 years the Trust has implemented successful conservation and/or education and research programs in 75 percent of the snow leopard’s habitat. This covers high priority range countries including Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, India and China.
At the core of the Trust’s work is the understanding that economic and ecological systems are mutually interdependent. Our conservation programs operate on a community-based level, collaborating with local people to understand and meet their needs for survival. Working in collaboration to make the value of a living, breathing snow leopard mutually beneficial and keeping these amazing cats alive for centuries to come is paramount to the Trust’s philosophy. Through innovative programs, effective partnerships, and the latest science, the Trust is saving this magnificent animal and improving the lives of people who live in the snow leopard countries of Central Asia.
Lasya's Den - Photo Credit: Snow Leopard Trust-Panthera
The Blank Park Zoo has been supporting the Snow Leopard Trust in various ways for close to 15 years and has contributed over $19,000 towards snow leopard conservation. Not only have they sold some of our products in their gift shop, but they also directly contribute annually to our conservation programs. Snow Leopard Trust Director Brad Rutherford had the opportunity to present at the Blank Park Zoo in 2011 and was amazed by all of the great work that the Zoo does. It was great to put faces to all of the names we have been working with and really made the partnership come full circle. We can’t say enough wonderful things about the staff and team at the Blank Park Zoo.
More than 160 zoos worldwide have snow leopards on exhibit. Millions of individuals watch these beautiful cats in awe every year. Zoos like Blank Park Zoo are bridging these inspiring moments with powerful contributions to snow leopard conservation in the field. We are so honored to have partners like the Blank Park Zoo and appreciate the opportunity to help highlight all of the wonderful conservation work that the Zoo supports.