The snow leopard is listed as globally endangered because its effective population size (the number of individuals likely to reproduce) is believed to be less than 2,500. However, a recent report in the journal Conservation Biology shows it has some very unexpected protectors: Buddhist monks.
About 60% of the leopards live in the high regions of China, where their thick fur keeps them warm. However, they are also targeted by the Chinese for this fur, as well as for their internal organs, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine (along with parts of MANY other animals, endangered and otherwise). As a result, the snow leopard population has dropped by about 20% in the last two decades.
Because of Buddhism’s basic tenet of respect and compassion for all living beings, several conservation organizations began working with four monasteries in the region of the Tibetan plateau in 2009, training monks to protect wildlife. Now, thousands of monks from hundreds of monasteries patrol the wilderness to prevent the killing of snow leopards. In fact, far more leopards are protected by Buddhist monks in Tibet than in the specific areas set aside for their protection. The monks also teach the local people that killing them is wrong. In recent household surveys, most people say they do not kill wildlife, citing Buddhism’s nonviolence as their reasoning.
So….since about 80% of the people within the snow leopards’ natural range do practice Tibetan Buddhism, there are plans to expand these programs even further.
Great to see religion as a force to help animals for a change.