Cats Without Borders: Conserving Snow Leopards
Have you ever crossed frozen rivers to climb 4,000-meter ridges in search of snow leopards? This is a normal day "in the office" for Dr Justine Shanti Alexander. As a Regional Ecologist for the Snow Leopard Trust, Justine supports snow leopard research and conservation efforts in China and Mongolia to further safeguard the species. The cats live in the border regions of Central Asia, spanning 12 countries; the home range of males has been estimated to cover up to 200 km squared - that is half the size of Barbados. Due to the sheer expanse of their range in high remote mountain areas, it is difficult to quantify the population size, but it is guestimated that less than 10,000 individuals remain. Justine tells us how she tracked snow leopards during her PhD and now works with Shanshui (featured in our episode "Nature Conservation: There's an app for that"), training herders working in snow leopard habitats to help protect them. Our guest discusses how saving snow leopards can have trickle down effects, protecting their prey, grasslands, and the local people who coexist with them. China holds 60% of the global snow leopard habitat and therefore plays a key role in its conservation. For more information on Justine's work with the Snow Leopard Trust, visit their website here.