The voices of those who matter II

How people in Annapurna Conservation Area think about and feel towards the snow leopard.

In the ‘voices of those who matter‘ we looked at how people in Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) felt about the snow leopard.  In this blog we do the same with the 500-plus people we’ve talked to in our other study site: Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA)  After all, these are the people who live alongside the snow leopard day-in, day-out.  Their views of of the species are often shaped by practical experiences of losing livestock or via their religion, rather than through the comfortable lens of zoological collections or wildlife documentaries.  But like people everywhere, their opinions are diverse, multifaceted and important.

Yaks: the subject of much 'beef' between locals and snow leopards

Yaks: the source of much ‘beef’ between locals and snow leopards

The comedians

In response to a question regarding how they felt about the snow leopard:

  • ‘Haven’t seen it in reality but looks beautiful in pictures.’
  • ‘Destroys animals even inside the corrals. What if it starts eating humans?’
  • ‘The animal is God-given and I really want to be positive about it.’
  • ‘They say we have to conserve; humans should also be present in the future.’
  • ‘The snow leopards should be captured and kept in a zoo as a tourist attraction.’

The apathetic

In response to a question regarding how they felt about the snow leopard:

  • ‘It’s useless, it’s its own master.’
  • ‘It’s not easy to kill the snow leopard.’
  • ‘No idea about the species. It is no use whether it’s present or absent.’
  • ‘Killing is not good but they harm us so I am neutral.’
  • ‘Snow leopard killed many yaks. So I sold all my yaks last year.’

The Buddhists

In response to a question regarding how they felt about the snow leopard:

  • ‘Killing should not be allowed – it’s not the solution.’
  • ‘We are Buddhists and don’t believe in killing.’
  • ‘It is good that it is also a living being.’
  • ‘It’s good to have such a rare animal. It is unique as God’s pet.’
  • ‘We believe snow leopards are pets of God. If it killed our livestock we worship God, as killing by snow leopards suggest that God is not happy with us.’

The heartbroken

In response to a question regarding how they felt about the snow leopard:

  • ‘It’s a nuisance.’
  • ‘I am a farmer and keep livestock. Annually the snow leopard kills many yak calves and has caused losses of a hundred thousand rupees [c. US$ 1,000].’
  • ‘I hate it.’
  • ‘Kill the animal – it is very troublesome.’
  • ‘I can’t kill it but I wish it were dead.’

The conservationists

In response to a question regarding how they felt about the snow leopard:

  • ‘If such animals doesn’t exist then the world will not be a nice place to live in.’
  • ‘It is the pride of Annapurna Conservation Area.’
  • ‘If the compensation is good [for livestock lost to snow leopards] then it should be conserved for the future.’
  • ‘It has the potential to increase the value of the Himalayas.’
  • ‘Our coming generation should also see this animal.’
Blue sheep: eating these stops snow leopards getting on people's goat

Blue sheep: eating these stops snow leopards getting on people’s goat

Whatever people think about the snow leopard here, the point is that they have been asked.  Whether positive or negative, they are entitled to their opinion. And who are we to judge if they feel animosity towards the snow leopard?  Many of our ancestors in Northern Europe weren’t too keen on things with pointy teeth and claws.  Even today, reintroductions or proposed reintroductions of carnivores like lynx or wolves elicit strong responses.  The goal of conservation – in Nepal and elsewhere – is to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of living alongside such creatures, so that they are considered assets rather than liabilities.  And conservationists like us can theorise and analyse all we want, but, at the end of the day, the voices of those who live alongside snow leopards are the voices of those who matter most.

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Flickr Photos

Marshyangdi river valley, Annapurna

Yunkar Gompa in the NarPhu valley

Yaks in the NarPhu valley

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