International Snow Leopard Day, 23 October, commemorates the endorsement of the 'Bishkek Declaration' and draws attention to progress on and threats to snow leopard conservation.
The Bishkek Declaration aims to protect at least 20 snow leopard habitats by 2020, a goal known as "Secure 20 by 2020."
21 October 2016: Governments, UN agencies and other stakeholders are celebrating progress on and discussing challenges to snow leopard conservation from Friday, 21 October, through to Sunday, 23 October, which is recognized as International Snow Leopard Day. The Day commemorates when the governments of the twelve snow leopard range countries endorsed the ‘Bishkek Declaration on the Conservation of the Snow Leopard’ in 2013.
The Bishkek Declaration aims to protect at least 20 snow leopard habitats by 2020, a goal known as “Secure 20 by 2020.” The Declaration led to the formation of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), which uses the snow leopard as an indicator species for the high mountain ecosystems it inhabits – an ecosystem that generates freshwater for one-third of the world’s people. With the ultimate aim of ensuring that “snow leopards remain the living icon of the mountains of Asia,” the Program focuses both on wildlife conservation and habitat or ecosystem preservation. It supports transboundary cooperation on a range of activities including the engagement of local communities and industry in conservation; research and monitoring; combating poaching and illegal trade; management and enforcement; building awareness and capacity; and enhancing conservation policies and institutions.
On 21 October, the Government of Kyrgyzstan, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and GSLEP partners will host a high-level panel discussion to celebrate the Day at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Participants will focus on reinforcing collaboration and synergies in the implementation of the GSLEP. They will highlight innovative programming, partnerships and progress on the ground. The event will also seek to strengthen political support and commitment for ongoing and new GSLEP initiatives, including a Global Presidential Summit to be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 2017.
The publication highlights how preventing livestock losses, offsetting the costs of such losses and improving community support for snow leopard conservation are the most important steps in tackling the problem of snow leopard poaching and trafficking.
Also to mark the Day, supporting GSLEP partners released two publications. The UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched the report, ‘Silent Roar: The UNDP and GEF in the Snow Leopard Landscape,’ which discusses how conserving the snow leopard, an apex predator, supports preservation of the ecosystem overall. TRAFFIC also launched a report titled, ‘An Ounce of Prevention: Snow leopard crime revisited.’ The publication highlights how preventing livestock losses, offsetting the costs of such losses and improving community support for snow leopard conservation are the most important steps in tackling the problem of snow leopard poaching and trafficking.
Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary, Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, drafted an editorial titled, ‘Spectre of Extinction Haunts the Ghost of the Mountains.’ It discusses conservation challenges for snow leopards, noting how the “inhospitable nature of the Snow Leopard’s sparsely populated habitat does not guarantee that the elusive cats are spared exposure to dangers from humans.” The article highlights, among other threats, how climate change allows human encroachment into snow leopard habitat that was previously unsuitable for agriculture and grazing. Chambers states that, “only by collaborating, can countries save their snow leopards,” and underscores the readiness of CMS and its non-governmental partners, NABU and Panthera, to safeguard the “Ghost of the Mountains.”
The 12 snow leopard range countries include the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Kingdom of Bhutan, People’s Republic of China, Republic of India, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan. [UNDP Press Release] [GSLEP website] [Bradnee Chambers Editorial] [Silent Roar: The UNDP and GEF in the Snow Leopard Landscape] [IISD RS Sources]