U.N. launches program to help endangered snow leopards

June 5 marks World Environment Day, a day devoted to inspiring environmental action and awareness. The effects of climate change pose an existential threat to all living things, including the snow leopard.

That’s why the German Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) Rehabilitation Center in Kyrgyzstan is essential to saving the species. 

“Snow leopards face a multitude of threats,” Koustubh Sharma of the Snow Leopard Trust told the Associated Press. 

Sharma says conflict, poaching, illegal wildlife trade, mining and habitat destruction all threaten the species. Experts predict that if all these factors remain unchanged, by 2070 two thirds of snow leopard habitats will be destroyed. Today the Trust estimates that only 150 to 500 snow leopards remain in Kyrgyzstan. 

“Climate change can be called as the mother of all threats because it interacts with all other threats and amplifies each of them by a factor that’s probably unknown to us as of now,” Sharma said. 

As snow leopard habitats dwindle, they’re forced to interact with the human populace for their own survival which can be dangerous for both species. 

“Conflicts between human beings, livestock and snow leopards are therefore more likely to happen. Greater interaction between human beings and wildlife also means that transfer of zoonotic diseases, like COVID-19, are more likely to happen than ever before,” Bruno Pozzi, UN Environment Programme’s Director for Europe, told Associated Press. 

Global warming forces farmers and herders to acquire land occupied by the big cats. To increase conservation efforts, the United Nations launched Vanishing Treasures, a program to help locals in Kyrgyzstan find alternative income and livelihoods. It will also research the potential transmission of diseases between wildlife and humans and aims to reduce conflict between snow leopards and farmers. 

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