Photo by Shannonkringen via Flickr CC
USA Today recently reported that a snow leopard was captured in Afghanistan and as a result of the physical and mental trauma of being caught and transported for sale, the big cat died. However, conservationists are trying to look at the bright side, which is the way in which Afghans reacted to the capture and treatment of the incredibly rare animal. When the Afghanistan National Environmental Protection Agency received word that a snow leopard was captured and sold by Afghan villagers, they notified the authorities who immediately seized the animal. It's this fast action that conservationists are hoping is the silver lining in the fight to save a species with only 50 to 200 members left in the wild. USA Today reports that the snow leopard was captured early Saturday night, Feb. 27, and by the time officials got to it, it had had all four legs bound and was transported for 2 or 3 days over very rough roads. Richard Fite, a senior agricultural advisor with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture who is currently stationed in Mazar e Sharif, Afghanistan, states, ""For a normally solitary, wild animal, the mental stress would have been just unimaginable. When I first saw the animal, on its fourth or fifth day of captivity, it was already in trouble -- quite passive and subdued. During the next two days, it became progressively more so."
Despite the best efforts of rescuers, the animal couldn't be saved. But perhaps others can. The emphasis on how important these animals as shown through the rescue efforts can perhaps protect them from the villagers who would normally trap or kill them.
Snow leopards live in remote areas where their human neighbors make a living by herding. Programs that boost income for the villagers can stave off the usual reaction of killing a snow leopard after an attack on livestock, or trapping it to sell it in order to make money.
Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust have come up with smart solutions.
"In Mongolia herders make handicrafts that are sold in zoos in Europe and the United States. If at the end of the year the community hasn't killed any snow leopards, then the whole community gets a bonus," says Tom McCarthy, director of the non-profit conservation group Panthera's Snow Leopard Program. and in Pakistan where disease is a primary issue for livestock, the groups offer livestock vaccination to villagers. "The loss to disease goes down so much that the community can afford to lose a few animals to the snow leopards,"
So while this incident is a serious loss for snow leopards now, perhaps it could be a boon in the long run by rallying more intelligent efforts toward conservation.
Environmental Graffiti has many more photos for you to check out of this gorgeous, and rare, animal.