We are saddened to share that Rinchen Wangchuk, a dear friend of Panthera’s and the Founder and Director of the Snow Leopard Conservancy–India Trust, passed away recently after years of battling ALS. Among the international wildlife conservation community and beyond, Rinchen was renowned for his incredible lifetime contribution in studying and saving snow leopards.
Rinchen dedicated his career to the development of community-based snow leopard conservation initiatives by cultivating and sustaining genuine relationships with local communities in his native homeland of Ladakh, India. In his decades of work, Rinchen consistently reversed local communities’ deep-seated, negative perceptions of the snow leopard and worked side-by-side with local herders to improve their livestock husbandry practices, thus protecting the illustrious ‘mountain ghost.’ Rinchen is also well known for his development of a conservation education program for children in northern India and an eco-tourism Himalayan homestay program that has now multiplied across other snow leopard range states.
Recently, the Snow Leopard Conservancy honored Rinchen with an Award for Outstanding Achievements in Community-Based Snow Leopard Conservation. In a letter congratulating Rinchen on this award, Panthera’s Executive Director of Snow Leopard Programs, Dr. Tom McCarthy, wrote, “From my first days as a snow leopard conservationist, I have had a great admiration for your work and your dedication. Through all those years it has been a privilege to call you a friend as well as a fellow crusader in the sometimes difficult struggle to save our favorite cat.”
On behalf of the world’s snow leopards and those of us you leave behind, we thank you, Rinchen, for your inspirational dedication to the protection of the world’s snow leopards, and for your friendship. On your behalf, and that of the snow leopard, we will whole-heartedly continue your fight to save this magnificent species. You will forever be remembered and missed.
Watch an interview with Rinchen.