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Predator – Proof Corrals : A Cheap Solution to an Expensive Problem

The best way to protect snow leopards is to protect the livelihoods of the people that share their habitat. 

Livestock Depredation by Predators is a Leading Cause of Human-Wildlife Conflict

The Problem
In the high mountains of Asia, when a snow leopard, wolf, lynx, or bear attack livestock, a human-wildlife conflict is all but inevitable.

Shepherding, especially in the high altitudes of the Himalayas, Tien Shan, or the Pamirs is incredibly tough work. Our teams have worked with communities on the front-lines of snow leopard territory for close to two decades.

However, much of the money that has gone into community based conservation has come from tourism. Now with COVID-19 all but destroying local tourism based livelihoods, conflict between humans and wildlife has seen a huge uptick.

Snow Leopard In A Non Predator Proof Corral

A live snow leopard trapped in a corral, exhausted after killing 35 sheep & goats. Thanks to years of conservation work and education, the villagers turned the snow leopard over to the wildlife department without hurting it in retaliation. It was later set free.

Just over 6 months in 2020, there have been at least 7 documented attacks by snow leopards, lynxes, and wolves on corrals and animal pens in Ladakh, India, leading to the loss of over 250 domestic animals.

Every time a predator gets into a corral, it usually ends up killing all the animals inside due to its predatory instinct. This not only leads to a devastating financial losses for shepherds who exist on the frontiers of society, but many times leads to the death of the predator itself due to retaliation. Over 400 snow leopards are killed annually across snow leopard range countries.

The Solution
Simply upgrading existing corrals with chain-link fencing on a welded iron frame can prevent predators getting into a corral at night. This critical step prevents the massacre of livestock and prevents snow leopards from being killed. In places where no corrals exists, such as transitional and seasonal high pasture camps, we will build chain-link corrals.

Who Benefits?
Nomadic communities across the high Tibetan plateau of the Changthang in Ladakh, India and semi-nomadic communities across the Tien Shan in Kyrgyzstan are the beneficiaries of this project. Dozens of nomadic settlements, high camps, and seasonal pastures across this landscapes have no corrals or pens that can guarantee the safety of animals at night.

A snow leopard or wolf entering an unsecured corral can be devastating to a family. On average, most corrals house between 30-50 sheep or goats. With a value of over $100 per animal, this could be over a $5,000 loss for a family –  far beyond their annual income. If you suffered this sort of loss – what would you want to do to the predator that killed your herd?

Solution Implementing Capability
The High Asia Habitat Fund’s coalition of conservationists and wildlife experts have worked with communities at the forefront of human-wildlife conflict in India and Kyrgyzstan for close to two decades.  Our teams operate in some of the harshest conditions with great rates of success. With decades of high-altitude experience in conservation, remote-area projects and infrastructure management, and deep links with local communities, our crews are uniquely skilled to tackle this infrastructure project.

Fund Usage
Funds will be spent on building predator proof corrals where humans and snow leopards are routinely in conflict in the Ladakh region of India as well as in the Tian Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan. We will leverage our ranger teams and expedition crews to build these alongside prominent nonprofits in the area.

The majority of the funds will be utilized in material costs for chain-link fencing, concrete, and structural modifications and a portion of the funds will also be used to hire work-teams from the local communities, thus generating more local livelihoods at a time when all tourism related jobs have dried up. On average, it costs it roughly $500 to build a predator proof corral that can secure 400 sheep and goats. This protects the herds of 3 or 4 families and keeps snow leopards and wolves out of trouble.

Measuring Impact

We conduct a loss survey before a pen is upgraded to document livestock losses incurred within a corral in the past five years. Once a corral is upgraded, we conduct an annual site-assessment to ensure it is functioning as required and resurvey the family on losses incurred. This allows us to improve our infrastructure models, making them more secure while reducing unneeded expenses. We differentiate between depredation losses in the field vs in the corral. Every predator-proof corral built or upgraded is photographed and geo-tagged.

Slide PREDA Use the arrows to scroll through the photo essay. Slide The Tibetan Plateau The Changthang, Ladakh, India Extending into southeastern Ladakh, in India, the high altitude Tibetan Plateau has vast inhospitable highlands and giant lakes. This region is called the Changthang, or Northern Place. Its human inhabitants are the Changpa people, nomadic pastoralists who call these inhospitable highlands their home.

Slide The boundless grasslands of the Changthang are one of the remotest parts of our planet. A trip here is a true expedition. Our teams must bring along everything they need. Fuel, supplies, and off-the-grid camp gear. Slide But for the Changpa, this is home. The ample grasslands of the Changthang have supported their nomadic pastoral way of life for millennia. On the roof of the world, they depend on their herds of Pashmina goats and sheep to sustain their way of life. Slide Their livestock grazes its way across southeastern Ladakh as the Changpa switch multiple camps through the year. They live in small groups with canvas and yak-wool tents. Each nomadic group has its own pasture rights, established camp sites, and migration patterns governed by the water cycle and the growth of grass. Slide But these highlands are not just home to the Changpa and their herds. Slide They are also home to a wide variety of rare wildlife. Wild ungulates such as urial, blue sheep, ibex, and argali compete for grass alongside Tibetan wild ass (pictured). Slide They share habitat with the three major predators of the region - snow leopards, wolves, and bears. Slide This inevitably leads to conflict. Traditional corrals in this region are built with the only material available - rock. Low rock walls serve one function, to contain and corral. The regions predators clear these walls with little effort - causing huge financial losses to the remote Changpa communities. Through millennia of living besides these apex predators, the nomads have adopted several strategies of coping with these losses - the foremost is retaliation. Slide For millennia, the only real solution here has been to kill the predators before they can do damage. Pit traps, deep holes with some meat at the bottom, have been used with devastating effect on wolves. Large Tibetan mastiffs (pictured here) act as alarm systems. Groups of these fierce dogs are effective at keeping snow leopards and bears at bay. But they can also form packs and hunt wild sheep like argali and ibex. Slide For the Changpa, their flocks of livestock are their only source of income. The fine cashmere produced by the Pashmina goats and the thick wool from their sheep bring in cash. The animals also provide their only source of protein and nutrition as nothing grows at these altitudes.

So how can we reduce conflict between shepherd and predator?
Slide Chain-link fencing. It’s cheap and highly effective. We upgrade nomadic corrals by surrounding the low rock walls with an eight foot high chain link fence. The herds are secure. The snow leopard safe from retaliation. Slide Though these regions remain remote and hard to access, it doesn’t stop our Field Team. Over the last two decades, our Field Team has built deep relationships with the Changpa nomads. The team combines these relationships with impressive backgrounds in expedition management, wildlife conservation, and remote logistics. Our 4x4’s transport chain-link fencing, steel posts, and concrete to the remotest locations - ensuring we can end an ancient conflict.
Slide Your support is critical. Help us predator proof more corrals.
Livestock secured means snow leopards saved.
Just $500 pays for an entire corral for an average sized herd.
Please donate.

Help reduce human-wildlife conflict.
Help conserve ecosystems.
Help train rangers.

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