About The Project
The Jomolhari Trek, an important leg of the famous Snowman Trek, is one of the most popular trekking routes in Bhutan and passes through prime snow leopard and blue sheep habitat. Numerous camera trap photos, signs, and DNA sampling from the region has established it as one of the best snow leopard habitats in Bhutan. Like the tiger, the snow leopard is an apex predator and it is a flagship species of the high mountains of Asia. However, the global snow leopard population stands at an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 spread over 2 million square kilometers of habitat across the mountains of the Himalayas and Central Asia, spanning 12 countries. Bhutan is one of them, and the snow leopard is a sentinel of much of Bhutan’s northern alpine regions along the Tibetan border.
Jomolhari Mountain Area
This region has some of the highest snow leopard activity in Bhutan and is a hotbed for snow leopard and its prey, the blue sheep. The residents of this region are primarily yak herders, as the area is mostly above treeline. While yak predation is prevalent in the area, the herders have generally been tolerant of some level of predation all along. However, public attitudes and perception toward snow leopards are fast changing.
Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Project
The Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation project is an integrated approach to conserve an important snow leopard region in Bhutan. We believe that bringing benefits from conservation to local communities will encourage resident communities to actively participate in snow leopard conservation, which in turn can only succeed with their support. Yak-herding communities will benefit from improved health care, livestock husbandry, and education services and income generation from tourism and related initiatives; snow leopards will benefit from protection by the local communities. It is a win-win situation.
Jomolhari School Among Snow Leopards
Despite Bhutan’s tremendous progress toward achieving universal access to primary education, in some regions, geography and climate can impede school attendance and access to supplies. The Bhutan Foundation is taking action by supporting the multifaceted “School Among Snow Leopards” initiative, an important component of the Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program. Due to cold climatic conditions, the highland schools are, often, closed early. They also face a lack of educational materials, teaching aids, and supplies for the students. The lessons are taught in a dark and cold room.The program seeks to tap into the full potential of these students and provide them with a supportive setting that complements learning alongside values of conservation, community development, and livelihood sustainability. In this way, we hope to improve educational opportunities for the children of Soe by providing an educational setting that enables them to succeed, and create awareness about conservation of the community’s surrounding environment.
September 28, 2017
The Bhutan Foundation supported the Soe Park Range Office under the Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) to train various members of the Soe and Yaksa community on snow leopard conservation. A key to the project was the formation of Snow Leopard Conservation groups, comprised solely of members from the communities of Soe Yutoe and Soe Yaksa, and the next step for the park was to conduct field trainings in data collection and camera trapping to get the members actively involved and interested in snow leopard conservation.
Involving the local people in these trainings and exercises will be crucial in the conservation of the Snow Leopard in the long term, enabling a future of the communities living in harmony with the snow leopard and other prey species. Through the project agreement, 10 camera traps were donated to the JDNP park for the training of Snow Leopard Conservation Groups for their use in the run up to the Jomolhari Mountain Festival (happening October 14-15). The aim is to set up the camera traps a month before the festival and have captured images of snow leopards and other species on display during the festivities.
October 25, 2016
The fourth Jomolhari Mountain Festival, held October 24-25, 2016, was the stage for our successful launch of two new conservation awareness tools: a snow leopard activity chest and a snow leopard mascot, Gangzi. This was part of the snow leopard conservation initiative in collaboration with the Jigme Dorji National Park. The goal is for the chest and Gangzi to help teach the children of communities who share the same environment with the snow leopards about environmental conservation. The snow leopard chest includes educational materials, such as an activity book, posters, and a board game, to help raise awareness about the snow leopard. Gangzi was created in honor of Snow Leopard Day 2016 and will serve as a member of the community in advocating for environmental and conservation issues.
The Foundation also created five traditional Bhutanese masks made in the images of snow leopards and blue sheep for the Jomolhari School students to use as a part of their annual snow-leopard–themed play. The Jomolhari Mountain Festival was supported by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the Bhutan Foundation.
February 24, 2016
Since the implementation of the gid disease reduction program by the Livestock Officer and yak herders of Soe Yutoed in 2013, the incidence of yak calf mortality in the area has dropped from 34 percent to 8 percent in three years. This was mainly brought about through a series of awareness campaigns, training of herders in better animal health practices, and routine field visits by the Livestock Officer. With reduced yak mortality due to disease, herders can better tolerate some loss of yaks to natural predators such as snow leopards and wild dogs. This initiative is carried out in partnership with the Jigme Dorji National Park and the Department of Livestock Services, with support from the Bhutan Foundation and Snow Leopard Conservancy.
January 12, 2016
A total of 28 members of the Soe community were trained in livestock management to increase knowledge of basic animal health treatments for wounds, fractures, and abscesses; to increase understanding of pasture development, feeding management, and breed improvement; and, more importantly, to increase understanding of the prevention and cure of gid disease. This training is the third in a series for the Soe community members, in addition to awareness campaigns on gid disease. The training was led by the livestock officer of Soe village, Namgay, in partnership with the Department of Livestock under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
October 7, 2015
The third Jomolhari Mountain Festival was funded by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. We supported a health screening campaign at the festival in collaboration with the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health, Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences. The festival is a perfect time for conducting annual medical check-ups when the local residents are all gathered in one place. Normally, during other times, they are either scattered across the mountainside in their herders’ camps or traveling for trade and other business.
August 13, 2015
Jomolhari School construction was completed and officially handed over to the community. Staff from the Bhutan Foundation joined the community of parents and local elders for the opening ceremony. The new school now has better lighting, insulation, and adequate space, including a library for the students. The school also plans to be powered using solar power during the cold winter months.
October 8, 2014
The second Jomolhari Mountain Festival was attended by guests from the Snow Leopard Conservancy, the Bhutan Foundation, Karma Quest Expeditions, government officials, tourists, and other visitors. A small bakery was introduced by the community at Jangothang tourist camp, funded by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators, and the Bhutan Foundation. The Department of Livestock Services (DoLS) organized a dog show focusing on the traditional mastiff breed of dogs.
According to many villagers, including Kencho Dorji, the village headman, the festival is one of the few times members of the whole community leave their work aside and gather to enjoy each other’s company. This year’s festival received support from the Bhutan Foundation and the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Next year, the Tourism Council of Bhutan will host the festival.
July 1, 2014
Thanks to a successful Jomolhari June 2014 campaign through the Bhutan Foundation, construction started on the new Jomolhari School after all materials, including timber and stones, were collected starting in April this year.
January 22, 2014
JDNP and DoLS dispatched another team of vets to deworm, sterilize, and vaccinate dogs in Soe Yaksa.
October 23, 2014
The first Jomolhari Mountain Festival was started to gather the community and visitors to celebrate the snow leopard and create awareness on the importance of its conservation. This was also an occasion to showcase local culture and bring the communities together. The festival was attended by officials, tourists, guests from the National Geographic Society, and the resident yak-herding communities. A third community, Nubri (under Paro Dzongkhag), asked to be included in the program.
June 12, 2013
The DoLS and the National Centre for Animal Health (NCAH) sent in a team of veterinarians and animal health specialists to cover vaccination, sterilization, and deworming of dogs in the Yutoed pastures to control and manage gid disease and the dog population. They also took samples to test for parasite loads and diseases.
September 19, 2012
JDNP, the Bhutan Foundation, the Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division (NRED), and the Snow Leopard Conservancy conducted the first participatory assessment with residents of the Jomolhari region. All the households in Yutoed and Yaksa villages participated in the sessions where all issues pertaining to snow leopard conservation in the area were discussed. This resulted in the design of the program.
Two snow leopard conservation committees were formed for the two villages, and the members were trained in the use of camera traps.
The Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program is implemented by the Jigme Dorji National Park and the communities of Yutoed, Yaksa, and Nubri, in partnership with the Snow Leopard Conservancy, the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health of the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences, and the Department of Livestock Services. Local agencies involved in the project include the Basic Health Unit, Livestock Extension Office, and the Jomolhari Community Primary School in Dangochong.
How You Can Help
Snow leopard conservation for Bhutan is all about bringing on board local yak herders who share their habitat to see benefits from having snow leopards literally living in their backyards. For the people to value snow leopards, benefits from improved social service delivery and income from tourism and livelihood activities must come to them. An integrated approach to snow leopard conservation that encompasses health care, education, tourism, and livestock husbandry would ensure that the Jomolhari Mountain Landscape remains as an important stronghold in Bhutan.
Your support for the Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program through the Bhutan Foundation can make a real difference: