Many families who live in the remote regions where snow leopards are found depend entirely on their herds of livestock for food and wealth. When these domestic animals graze on the limited local vegetation, the snow leopard’s wild prey is often forced to find food farther away. With domestic animals in the area, and reduced availability of wild prey, snow leopards target livestock more frequently when hunting.
Because these families typically live on less than $2 per day, the loss of even a single animal can create great financial hardship. Herders may retaliate against snow leopards to protect their animals, or set steel-jaw traps to stop the cats before they get too close.
But through our livestock insurance program, the local community manages a pool of money specifically designated to reimburse families who lose domestic animals to snow leopard predation. If an animal is killed in this way, the herder it belonged to can submit a claim to a committee made up of local residents and receive reimbursement for the loss.
The Snow Leopard Trust provides the funding required to build a strong financial foundation, and each participating herder contributes a premium that maintains the account. Over time, the program becomes financially self-sustaining.
In order to participate, each herder must sign a conservation agreement in which they pledge to protect the snow leopards and wild prey species in their area from poaching. If any community member violates this contract, they are no longer able to participate in the insurance program.
Additionally, a small annual bonus is paid out from the insurance fund to the participating herder who loses the fewest animals to predation. This creates a financial incentive to prevent snow leopard access to herds by increasing herd safety and herder vigilance.
As part of the insurance program, communities also agree to leave more food for the snow leopard’s wild prey by setting aside graze-free areas. In some cases, the lost ability to use this land can cause a hardship on the community. We work together with community leaders to determine a fair price for compensation, which we pay for separately from the insurance fund.