Buddha and the Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia)

High on the list of exotic places I haven't been yet, but would love to see are Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan, the countries of the Tibetan Plateau. One of the best living symbols of "The Roof of the World" is the Snow Leopard. Due to poaching, loss of prey, and habitat degradation, the snow leopard is listed as endangered by the IUCN. While conservation strategies like nature reserves and incentive programs, have helped protect snow leopards, there is another approach that could further defend the snow leopard.

A recently published study investigated the role of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in snow leopard conservation in the Sanjiangyuan region in China's Qinghai Province on the Tibetan Plateau. From 2009 to 2011, researchers systematically surveyed snow leopards in the Sanjiangyuan region. They found that 46% of Buddhist monasteries were located in snow leopard habitat and 90% were within 5 km of snow leopard habitat. The 336 monasteries in the Sanjiangyuan region could protect more snow leopard habitat (8342 km^2) through social norms and active patrols than the nature reserve's core zones.

Most local herders claimed that they did not kill wildlife, and 42% said they did not kill wildlife because it was a sin in Buddhism. Study results indicate monasteries play an important role in snow leopard conservation. Monastery-based snow leopard conservation could be extended to other Tibetan Buddhist regions that in total would encompass about 80% of the global range of snow leopards.

More Info:

National Geographic - Tibetan Plateau

Snow leopard (Uncia uncia)

International Union for Conservation of Nature

Monasteries protect snow leopards

Role of Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in Snow Leopard Conservation - abstract

Society for Conservation Biology