The first International Snow Leopard’s Day

“Conserving Snow Leopards to secure a healthy mountain ecosystem”

1 (2)4 November, Haa. Why are the Snow leopards important to conserve? This elusive snow leopard Panthera uncia, is under tremendous threat due to poaching and fragmentation of habitats across its geographical range. In order to affirm collective action to conserve this rare species and its fragile habitat, the Government of twelve snow leopard range countries and international partner agencies gathered at Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic in 2013 to develop the ‘Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Programme’ based on inputs from the respective range countries in the form of National Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Programme (NSLEPP). The forum amongst others unanimously adopted October 23 of every year as the “International Snow Leopards Day” and requested the respective Governments to observe this important day to benefit the snow leopard conservation.

Bhutan observed the first ‘International Snow Leopards’ day on 4th of November, and presumably is the first range country to celebrate this important event. Theme for this year’s celebration was “Conserving Snow Leopards to secure a healthy mountain ecosystem”. Essentially, conserving this flagship species is ensuring a stable mountain ecosystem, and for a country like Bhutan which is mainly dependant on hydropower generation for the national economy, saving and conserving the major water towers of the mountains is crucial. The celebrations were co-organized by the Department of Forest and Park Services and Haa Dzongkhag administration. Honorable Speaker, Lyonpo Jigme Zangpo, National Assembly graced the celebrations as chief guest and other guests included representatives from BTFEC, WWF Bhutan Program, NRDCL, ICS, NRED, SFED, BWS, SWS & Paro division, leaders of Local Government, Gewog administration, School principals and heads of autonomous agencies based in Haa sector heads from Haa Dzongkhag, National Centre for Riverine and Lake Fisheries and, also teachers and students from Katso Lower Secondary School, Tshapey Lower Secondary School and Chundu Middle Secondary School. The event was attended by more than 500 audiences.

The celebrations commenced with hoisting the national flag, singing the national anthem followed by marching ceremony. Dasho Dzongdag welcomed the chief guest and the other guests. Honorable Speaker in his opening remarks then highlighted the importance of celebrating the day and reiterated the rich biodiversity Bhutan possess & how it is important to conserve them. Chief Guest also shared on the conservation efforts put in by our visionary leaders and how the each of us are entrusted to ensure that what we have today is handed over to future generations intact. The days program included an educative quiz competition among three (Katsho Lower Secondary School Tshapey Lower Secondary School and Chundu Middle Secondary School), a skit performance by theatre artists and many entertaining Bhutanese dances by school children and Dzongkhag dancers. The day ended with vote of thanks by the Thrizin, Haa Dzongkhag and Chief Forestry Officer, Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve followed by tashi labey.

The event also formally inducted the renaming of Toorsa Strict Nature Reserve to “Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve” in appreciation of the strong commitment of Druk Gyalpo to the conservation sector. The event was financially supported by WWF Bhutan Programme through the “Eco Life Project”- Sustaining Ecosystem for Livelihood and the project is co-ordinated by Wildlife Conservation Division, Department of Forests and Parks Services.

Submitted by Wildlife Conservation Division and Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve, Department of Forest and Park Services

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