3 May 2023 International Leopard Day – The Rights of a Leopard
International Leopard Day, I’m going to write somewhat about hope. I thank those on the path of improving the lives of wild animals, the plight of the leopard in many places symbolic of coexistence issues. Having spent so much time in wild places where wildlife has the right to be I know beyond doubt that the thinking, feeling, sentient beings we share the planet with deserve all efforts to at least reduce the pressure being placed on wildlife by human activity. There is room for hope but as always, that must be backed up by action.
If you are new to the site please check out the menu including our work with LeopardEye and progress on our evolving coexistence strategy, the Sacred Valley Concept (SVC) HERE including more about the leopard Thagu and the Chhomrong Stupa. Keep reading below for this update on International Leopard Day as well as previous posts. If you can help our work, even just a little, please go HERE and I can be contacted through these social accounts YouTube Twitter Facebook Instagram.
The video above is a tiny snippet of work being done as part of the Sacred Valley Concept which essentially is connecting coexistence to our very being in what is right. The last few weeks have more personally being about understanding the leopard Thagu as well as a female leopard he visits in his territory, her name is Santi which in Gurung language means peace. Compared to many leopards, Thagu and Santi live safely in good habitat with almost no threat from people. The video is from a camera placed at the beginning of the Sacred Valley which as explained at the dedicated page HERE is more than just a place, it is a way of thinking, The Gurung people of Chhomrong, the village at the entrance to the valley, are Buddhist. The respect for the sacredness for the Chhomrong Khola (Nepali word for river) is such that very few people enter the valley (only a selected group of locals) and it is off limits to livestock.
The valley itself is extremely rugged but so are the wild animals which live there. Leopard, snow leopard and to be confirmed, clouded leopard, are the top predators along with Himalayan black bear and we are trying to find out if Himalayan wolf exists in the area too. Blue sheep and Himalayan Thar are key prey as are barking deer and other mammals. Poaching has reduced to almost zero but the threat can never be discounted and livestock kills, including by Thagu, involving the local big cats can mean tension. We are working this process using the tools as laid out in LeopardEye with the next step being the introduction of more tech, we’ll announce partners in the next update later in the year.
Personally I’m captivated by the Sacred Valley. I find it awe inspiring not just in the majesty of the terrain but the animals which live there. The landscape is hard on the legs and having walked many of the trails that leopards do, my respect is huge for these high altitude big cats, leopards, snow leopards and clouded leopards in the fact that they have to hunt in extremely steep landscapes and survive incredibly harsh weather conditions. I love the fact that they are undisturbed by traffic (the nearest road is a day’s walk away in good conditions, at least two days in monsoon) and also undisturbed by the trekkers who take the route along the Modi Khola, the next valley across, on their way to Annapurna Base Camp.
The last two months understanding Thagu have filled me with hope, quite a different feeling to that I described with the experience of three injured leopards (because of humans) in an earlier update since this site was rebooted in February this year (scroll down the page). Thagu and Santi have enough prey that is natural meaning that they although they can be active close to Chhomrong, in the main they keep a safe distance. The livestock kills consist of sheep, goats and yaks plus even buffalo (Thagu is a big, big leopard) and we are working on mitigation methods, prevention being the objective. I’ll have an update later in the year, I’m optimistic of further progress, the technology we are using continues to improve.
It is the attitude of the Chhomrong locals which gives me the most hope however. As the SVC evolves I feel there can be a sense of pride in the coexistence with these leopards known as tiger in these parts. Chhomrong Khola is a model for the SVC and I’m encouraged by the interest shown by other communities in both the India and Nepal Himalaya. We’ve got a lot of work to do to improve coexistence but the very essence of the rights of a leopard to live the life intended by nature is slowly taking hold and there is a sense that globally the plight of the leopard is being recognized.
However none of this is of any compensation to those leopards targeted for wildlife body parts trafficking (see Snapshot which has a further update upcoming). This is an area of concern in which there must be much more collaboration and support, as there needs to be to combat illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in general. I’ve written before about the cruelty and in this short update I’ve written about hope because there are ways forward if perhaps we look back to see how nature constructed places like sacred valleys, in our vision, minds and hearts. As mentioned I’ll have more on the SVC later in the year, for now it is IWT which once again has to take our focus (alongside an important human – elephant coexistence project, it’s really interesting how much leopards and elephants have in common on a human dominated planet, more on this pre-monsoon) preventing even one leopard at a time being caught in a snare, poisoned or shot for the trade is something I will forever continue to do, I hope you can engage in this efforts with a little help HERE.
Just a quick note to finish, in more than a decade of blogging I’ve rarely used the word extinction, a word which can be misleading in the messages it gives out. Take a leopard out of an ecosystem, and there are ramifications, it doesn’t matter what is happening with populations elsewhere. A cruel death is involved so this comes down not to just ecosystems but human decency. This is something I will expand on next time, the sentience of wild animals.
In the meantime, my best to all, Jack.