10 Feb

A New York Times Op-Ed by Panthera’s George Schaller: Saving More Than Just Snow Leopards


On Sunday, the New York Times published an op-ed by Panthera’s Vice President, Dr. George Schaller, and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Asia Program Deputy Director, Peter Zahler, entitled ‘Saving More Than Just Snow Leopards.’

In this hopeful editorial, Schaller and Zahler describe how conservation of the endangered snow leopard across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and China has helped spawn new community conservation programs, international diplomacy initiatives & what Schaller and Zahler describe as "ecological civilizations."

Local communities, countries, and the international community, are joining together to protect their wild landscapes and wildlife, including the snow leopard and its prey. The snow leopard serves as a keystone species, helping to maintain the health of its ecosystem and uniting countries to work together to protect their shared ecological resources and heritage. Because of this trans-boundary collaboration and the multi-national snow leopard conservation programs Panthera and others have underway, the remaining 3,500-7,000 snow leopards stand a fighting chance.

In addition to the Op-Ed, Dr. Tom McCarthy, Executive Director of Panthera’s Snow Leopard Program, shared, “Panthera is working in key sites across much of the snow leopard's vast range in central Asia to save this still poorly understood and persecuted cat. State of the art research, such as satellite-GPS collars and automated camera traps, are providing the insight we need to design effective conservation measures. Those measures must not just take people's needs into account - they must include local people in the entire conservation planning process. From the Tibetan Plateau to the Gobi Desert, from the flanks of Mount Everest to the Pamirs of Tajikistan, Panthera is using science and community-led conservation projects to ensure a future for this iconic cat and the people of this remote region.”

Panthera’s Dr. George Schaller continued, “I feel that the most important long-term result of the various snow leopard studies is that we’re cooperating with and training nationals in their own country who have accepted the responsibility of protecting and managing the mountain environment, for the benefit of all species of plants and animals including the livelihood of the local people.”

Today, while huge challenges exist for the snow leopard, Schaller and Zahler explain that “one thing is clear: Changes are afoot in the high mountains of Asia. And a mysterious, secretive and snow-colored cat appears to be leading them.”

Read The New York Times op-ed, ‘Saving More Than Just Snow Leopards.’

Learn about Panthera’s Snow Leopard Conservation Program.

See The New York Times graphic accompanying this article, entitled “Elusive Cats and their Endangered Prey.”