Int'l conference on snow leopards kicks off in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU: Forest and Environment Ministers, wild life experts, conservationists and high delegates from 12 countries that host the endangered snow leopard have begun a management planning stocktaking workshop here in Kathmandu from today.

The workshop aims at taking stock of the global efforts and the progress made towards protecting the snow leopard and its habitat.

Opening the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP)Programme as part of the conference, Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation Shankar Bhandari said the government has prioritised the protection of the snow leopard.

The Minister said harsh laws have been brought to crack down on poaching and trafficking of wildlife organs, which pose threat to snow leopard.

Apart from Nepal, snow leopard is found in 11 other countries; Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Minister of State for Forests and Soil Conservation Dirgha Raj Bhat described the snow leopard as an important component of a healthy ecosystem in mountainous region. Moreover, Minister Bhat expressed his hope that the conference would be useful in exploring ways of raising the living standards of the people living in mountain areas through ecotourism.

Acting Secretary at the Ministry Prem Narayan Kandel said the Ministry has divided the snow leopard inhabited mountainous region into three zones. The region from Mount Kanchenjunga in the east to the Ganesh Himal, the area from Mount Manaslu to Mount Dhaulagiri and Kaligandaki River to Api Nampa conservation area.

Chairman of the Conference Organising High-level Committee and former secretary at the Ministry, Krishna Chandra Poudel said the negative impact of climate change has had much effect in the mountainous area. He expressed his belief that efforts aimed at protecting the snow leopard would ultimately contribute to the conservation of the Himalayan environment itself.

According to the Organising Committee, the snow leopard population ranges from 300 to 500 in Nepal only and 3,500 to 7,000 in the world.

The conference would conclude after holding the second snow leopard high-level steering committee on January 18.

In the programme, GSLEP Program secretariat’s Dr Koustubh Sharma, GSLEP partner Karl Wurster of USAID and Dr Ghana Shyam Gurung of WWF among other speakers, stressed the joint efforts and governments' commitment for combating the challenges in terms of snow leopard protection.

GSLEP is a joint initiation of the civil societies and the international and private organisations from 12 countries, taken to protect snow leopard and its habitat. The high-level meeting will prepare the agenda for the snow leopard summit and the green investment conference to be held in Kazakhstan in mid-2017.