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Find out about the animals, events, behind the scenes information and more from the staff of Blank Park Zoo.

Kinabantagan River Spirit Initiative

Posted on 06/01/2015 at 3:38 PM

The Kinabantagan River Spirit Initiative is a project operated by the Malaysian non-profit organization Indigena (Society for the Conservation of Indigenous Fishes). This group was established to help conserve native Malaysian fish species through local community engagement and research. By working with local villagers, the goals of the River Spirit Initiative are to enhance knowledge of freshwater fish diversity, ecology, and conservation status, and to enhance local capacity and commitment for management and conservation of freshwater fish resources.

Most successful conservation efforts, in one way or another, are fueled by the support and participation of local peoples. Natives of the small villages in eastern Malaysia rely heavily upon the Kinabantagan River, primarily for its main resource – fish. Since so little information is known about the ecosystem and fish found in this river, the River Spirit Initiative collects much knowledge from local fishermen. This knowledge then guides the scientific studies carried out to learn more about the river ecosystem, which then influences the methods necessary to save it from threats such as invasive fish species, pollution, and over-fishing. A healthy river ecosystem combined with sustainable fishing practices will ensure that local peoples’ way of life can endure for many generations.

Though the island of Borneo is over 9,000 miles away from Iowa, local Des Moinesians have some things in common with native Malaysians. While we aren’t quite a fishing village, a lot of Iowans enjoy fishing. Freshwater fish thrive in non-polluted waterways free of invasive species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels. Iowa fishermen can help keep their waterways clean by recycling, properly cleaning boats to avoid species transfer, and reporting any new sightings of invasive species to their local Fish and Wildlife station.

To learn more about the Kinabantagan River Spirit Initiative, please visit http://kinabatanganriverspirit.weebly.com

International Snow Leopard Trust - More Community-Based Programs

Posted on 05/22/2015 at 3:36 PM

Last time, we talked about one very important way International Snow Leopard Trust (ISLT) helps local herders in snow leopard habitat – Snow Leopard Enterprises.  But, ISLT has several other valuable programs that help the herding families, in turn helping to protect the snow leopards.  Here are two:

Livestock Vaccination Program:  Herder families sometimes lose up to five times more livestock to disease than to snow leopard predation.  The loss of even one animal can bring severe economic hardship.  To solve this problem, the Snow Leopard Trust began livestock vaccination programs for herding communities at little to no cost.

In order to participate, each herding family must sign an agreement to protect nearby snow leopards and their wild prey species from poaching.  Herders also agree to limit the size of the herds.  With fewer domestic animals to compete with for food, the number of wild sheep and goats (the favorite food of snow leopards) rises.

The herders in turn sell excess animals at local markets, thus earning additional income for necessities.  And smaller herd sizes mean healthier herds, helping to alleviate economic hardships on the families.  And more wild herds mean more food for the snow leopards.  

Livestock Insurance Program:  Snow leopards are predators, and they occasionally kill domestic livestock.  When domestic herds compete for with wild sheep and goats for food, wild numbers can decrease.  Domestic animals are often easy prey, and with wild prey numbers down, snow leopards may target livestock more frequently than hunting.  The Livestock Insurance Program allows herders to submit a claim to a committee made up of local residents.  In turn, they receive reimbursement for their loss.    
In order to participate, each herder must sign a conservation agreement in which they pledge to protect the snow leopards and wild prey species in their area from poaching. If any community member violates this contract, they are no longer able to participate in the insurance program.  Additionally, a small annual bonus is paid out from the insurance fund to the participating herder who loses the fewest animals to predation. This creates a financial incentive to prevent snow leopard access to herds by increasing herd safety and herder vigilance.

For more information about other ISLT programs, visit www.snowleopard.org.   Next time on the Blank Park Zoo Conservation Blog about snow leopards, we’ll focus on BPZ’s very own snow leopards – Elsie and Tai Lung.  Until then!

---- Kathy Krogmeier, Blank Park Zoo Volunteer

International Snow Leopard Trust - Snow Leopard Enterprises

Posted on 05/06/2015 at 4:04 PM

As with many of the most endangered ecosystems, they are surrounded by some of the most impoverished people.  To help protect the animals and their environments, we must take care of the people.  This lays true with snow leopard habitat.  Did you know in Mongolia, for example, herders subsist on less than $2 per day?  Many Americans spend more than that each day on coffee or sodas.

Herders rely on their animals to survive, and they can ill afford to lose animals to predators such as the snow leopard.  Sometimes retaliation killings or poaching of snow leopards take place to protect herds or livestock or to earn extra money.

The International Snow Leopard Trust (ISLT) developed Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE), working with local communities to increase their annual income and at the same time help protect the snow leopards.  

Here’s how it works:

  • Herders collect raw wool from their herds.  Training and equipment are provided by SLE to turn the wool into a variety of beautiful, handcrafted items.  
  • SLE purchases the items from the herders at mutually-agreed upon prices, then sells the items around the world via their on-line store
  • This program has drastically increased the value of each herding family’s raw wool, and can boost annual household income by up to 40 percent!
  • This is a community program.  For a community to participate and earn this additional income, each member must sign a conservation agreement, which is reviewed and signed each year.
  • The conservation agreement requires each person to protect the snow leopards and wild prey species living in their area from poaching.
  • If a participating community fulfills their collective conservation agreements, an additional cash bonus is awarded at the end of each year.  However, if any poaching takes place during that time, the entire community loses the bonus.  This provides a strong financial incentive for the community to work together to protect snow leopards.

Snow Leopard Enterprises has been very successful in helping herding communities.  Won’t you help them out by visiting ISLT’s website and purchasing an item to enjoy yourself or give as a gift?  You can find the site here: http://www.snowleopard.org/shop/

Next time on the Blank Park Zoo Conservation Blog, we’ll talk about the other programs that have been put in place by ISLT to help protect the snow leopards in the wild.  Until then!

----- Kathy Krogmeier, Blank Park Zoo Volunteer

International Snow Leopard Trust - ISLT Website

Posted on 04/30/2015 at 2:41 PM

Have you taken the opportunity to explore International Snow Leopard Trust’s (ISLT) website?  It’s everything snow leopard - packed full of information about their mission, projects, animals in the wild and in captivity – it’s all there.  You can even send a free e-card to a friend!

The site shares information about what’s happening out in the field.  Want to see first-ever photos of cubs in the wild?  Or understand the purpose of the tracking collars on wild cats (and follow them via satellite)?  Or about what the researchers are currently focusing on?  It’s all there.   
You can help snow leopards by becoming a Citizen Scientist for ISLT!  Every year, ISLT cameras take thousands of images, and they are seeking individuals to help review the images – either labeling the various species or indentifying specific snow leopards.  This will help the researchers know what animals were where when.  If you are interested in more information, please contact ISLT today!

Also on the website is something else that’s very important – Snow Leopard Enterprises.  There is an amazing story behind SLE, but we’ll dive into that on the next blog.  Until then!

--- Kathy Krogmeier, BPZ Volunteer

International Snow Leopard Trust - Beginning of Our Relationship

Posted on 04/24/2015 at 12:06 PM

Looking into those deep, beautiful eyes, how can you help but fall in love with the majestic snow leopard.   Watching them in motion leaves absolutely no doubt of why they are called the ghost of the mountains.  They are so graceful, and in the wild, they blend in perfectly with their surroundings.  They just seem to disappear.

In 1999, Blank Park Zoo’s Conservation Committee was very intrigued by an article in “Wildlife Conservation” magazine about a researcher studying snow leopards.  He had little to no equipment, and what he did have was inadequate for high-altitude research.  This was also the year our Tom and Jo Ghrist Great Cats Complex was opening, and the idea was formed to sponsor a snow leopard project to celebrate the return of the snow leopards to BPZ.

The Committee connected with the International Snow Leopard Trust, the premier snow leopard research organization.  They are dedicated to finding real-life conflict resolutions and solutions – working in tandem with local people to improve their lives and protect snow leopards.  

Back then, we chose a specific project to help support.  Our first project was a conflict resolution workshop held in a remote area in the very northern tip of India, high in the Himalayan Mountains.  The purpose of the workshop was to begin a dialogue between local herdsmen and the conservation teams. 

In addition, funds were also available to purchase three GPS units for the park rangers and staff.  This allowed for more accurate reporting of locations.  And, best of all, it circled back to our initial thought from the magazine article – let’s help the snow leopard researchers!   

We have continued our support to ISLT every year since 1999, and, I’m happy to report, it will continue into the future.  ISLT is one of our “heritage” programs within our conservation efforts.  That means, each year, conservation funds will be set aside for the International Snow Leopard Trust.

I’m excited to be blogging about ISLT!  For more information, visit their website at ww.snowleopard.org.  More later!

---- Kathy Krogmeier, BPZ Volunteer


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