Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard: Stories from the Roof of the World

EDITED BY Don Hunter
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgktg
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    Snow Leopard
    Book Description:

    "Just recently, we once again traveled the high roads of snow leopard country, enjoying the beauty of Ladakh's iconic monasteries and watching blue sheep graze steep mountainsides. We saw no snow leopards but sensed their presence, feeling lucky and thrilled to be under the distant gaze of this magnificent cat. May you experience a similar feeling as you read about the snow leopard in this remarkable collection." -Robert Bateman, from the foreword. Like no other large cat, the snow leopard evokes a sense of myth and mysticism, strength and spirit shrouded in a snowy veil, seldom seen but always present. Giving a voice to the snow leopard, this collection of powerful first person accounts from an impressive cadre of scientist-adventurers grants readers a rare glimpse of this elusive cat and the remarkable lives of those personally connected to its future. These Stories from the Roof of the World resonate with adventure, danger, discovery, and most importantly hope for this magnificent big cat. Very little has been written about this mystical creature. Its remote and rugged habitat among the mightiest collection of mountains on Earth, proclaimed "The Roof of the World" by awe-struck explorers, make it one of the most difficult and expensive animals to study. After a millennia thriving in peaceful isolation, human encroachment, poaching and climate change threaten the snow leopards survival. Speaking on behalf of the snow leopard, these heart-felt stories will inform and inspire readers, creating the vital connection needed to move people toward action in saving this magnificent cat. Contributors include: Ali Abutalip Dahashof, Som B. Ale, Avaantseren Bayarjargal, Yash Veer Bhatnagar, Joseph L. Fox, Helen Freeman, Darla Hillard, Don Hunter, Shafqat Hussain, Rodney Jackson, Jan E. Janecka, Mitchell Kelly, Ashiq Ahmad Khan, Nasier A. Kitchloo, Evgeniy P. Kashkarov, Peter Matthiessen, Kyle McCarthy, Tom McCarthy, George B. Schaller, and Rinchen Wangchuk

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-205-4
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Zoology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. FOREWORD: OUT OF WHITE
    (pp. xi-xii)
    ROBERT BATEMAN

    The most charismatic of the great cats may have seen me in the wild, but I have not seen it, nor do I ever expect to. All my snow leopard paintings have been based on animals I observed in zoos. Though I have never seen a snow leopard in the wild, I have ventured into its mountainous world. My wife, Birgit, and I accompanied Helen Freeman, founder of the Snow Leopard Trust, to the edge of snow leopard country in the Himalayan region of India, Sikkim, and Nepal. Over the years, we have gotten to know Rodney Jackson and become...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Giving Voice to the Snow Leopard
    (pp. 1-12)
    DON HUNTER

    High in the lofty peaks of central Asia, a rare, elusive cat sits curled on a rocky ledge overlooking a deep, rugged valley. A cold wind wisps frozen snow into the thin air, creating a dazzling silver shower against a brilliant azure sky. It’s quiet up high, just the occasional crack of a distant glacier, a few rocks dancing down the shoulders of near-vertical mountains. Across the valley, a herd of blue sheep, the cat’s favorite food, grazes peacefully on a steep southern slope. Piercing feline eyes are fixed on nothing but see everything. There are no people in sight,...

  7. ON MEETING A SNOW LEOPARD
    (pp. 13-20)
    GEORGE B. SCHALLER

    Whenever I walk through the Bronx Zoo, I like to halt in front of the snow leopards. Their luxuriant smoke-gray coats sprinkled with black rosettes convey an image of snowy wastes, and their pale, frosty eyes remind me of immense solitudes. For a moment the city vanishes and I am back in the Hindu Kush, the home of these magnificent cats.

    The December cold gripped the valley as soon as the feeble sun disappeared behind the ridge. The slopes and peaks above an altitude of 11,000 feet were snow-covered, and a bank of clouds along the distant summits suggested that...

  8. FACE-TO-FACE WITH SHAN
    (pp. 21-24)
    JOSEPH L. FOX

    She had been on a kill for the past two days. Though partially obscured by thick brush, we could see her feeding. On the dawning of the third day, crawling from my bitterly cold tent, I spotted her emerging from the brush. She climbed steadily up the sparsely vegetated walls of the gorge surrounding our camp. On an impulse, I grabbed my camera and decided to follow, knowing full well that pursuing a snow leopard on foot up a steep ridge was not likely to result in anything but exhaustion on my part. She went out of view about 500...

  9. TRACKS OF MY SOUL
    (pp. 25-32)
    JAN E. JANECKA

    One of my earliest memories, from when I was maybe three or four years old, is of my father, Lubomir, singing a lullaby he had written for me. At that time we lived in former Communist Czechoslovakia, far from the mountains of central Asia, many worlds away from snow leopards. As political refugees, my family was forced to immigrate to the United States, where I would later start my career as a scientist. The words of my father’s song have faded, but I can clearly remember the images that drifted through my mind in that dreamy time just before sleep....

  10. KASHMIR
    (pp. 33-44)
    HELEN FREEMAN

    I read a travel guidebook on India that said it did not matter if the traveler was on the ground or in the air, the visitor’s first view of Kashmir would be unforgettable. The Mughal emperors who came here coined a word for the valley: paradise.

    As the guidebook said, it was unforgettable, but it was not what I had expected. Instead of relaxing in paradise, I was freezing and scared stiff. Heavy snow was falling and the trail was icy. I kept muttering to myself, “Explain it again, why did I want to do this?” Then, after hours of...

  11. FROM RICE FIELDS TO SNOWFIELDS
    (pp. 45-50)
    YASH VEER BHATNAGAR

    There was a low rumble from the opposite mountain. We rushed out to see the stream turn into a gray, turbid, frothy mass. The sound grew to a deafening roar; huge boulders began tumbling downward, crushing everything in their path, barely missing a farmer’s house—sheer natural force and violence grown from barely a streamlet just a few hours ago. I marveled at this spectacle of nature from my base camp deep inside Pin Valley National Park in northern India’s Trans Himalaya, the rain-shadow region of the main Himalaya. Rarely did this region receive such heavy monsoonal precipitation. The raging...

  12. DEATH OF A BHARAL
    (pp. 51-62)
    MITCHELL KELLY

    Fly north from Delhi and within an hour you’ll be above the peaks of the Indian Himalaya. You’ll look down in dread and wonder how an animal can stand upright, let alone survive, and you’ll convince yourself that where you’re headed couldn’t possibly be this rugged. Beneath you the mountains go on and on, and something seems not quite right—you’re flying over these peaks, thousands of feet over them, and yet you feel them towering above you. It’s your first sense of the power of the Himalaya. The mountains become less white and more brown, and with just the...

  13. AN ACCORD OF HOPE
    (pp. 63-68)
    AVAANTSEREN BAYARJARGAL

    I began my career as a language teacher in the northern province of Mongolia called Khuvsgul, never imagining that someday I would become deeply connected to the snow leopard. My lucky break came out of the blue when I was asked to translate for a research team from the United States that was just beginning a study of snow leopards in the Gobi Altai, Mongolia. This chance opportunity opened a new career that allowed me to involve local people in an innovative conservation scheme to protect the snow leopards of my country. In ten years of active conservation work, I’ve...

  14. TEARS OF THE KARAKORUM
    (pp. 69-74)
    ASHIQ AHMAD KHAN

    August 1982. I left camp at dawn, awed by the morning sun reflecting off the snowy white peaks of the Karakorum range that engulfed me. Cool, crisp mountain air held spirits high as young legs eagerly took to the trail in search of the rare Marco Polo sheep. I had been in these mountains before, but on the trail out of camp I realized that I knew little of this iconic bighorn sheep named after the famous Venetian explorer who opened Europe’s eyes to the wonder and grandeur of central Asia. In Pakistan they live on the high shoulders of...

  15. THE PELT SMUGGLER
    (pp. 75-82)
    SHAFQAT HUSSAIN

    It was the winter of 1999. My assistant, Ghulam Mohammad (GM), and I had just completed our first in a series of surveys in northern Pakistan’s Baltistan region. Earlier in the year I had received a small grant from a London-based conservation organization to look into the possibility of starting an insurance scheme for domestic livestock against snow leopard predation. The idea was to protect the snow leopard against the retaliatory actions of angry villagers who had lost livestock to them. In gathering ethnographic and biological data, we conducted surveys in four valleys across Baltistan. GM and I were the...

  16. TWO SNOW LEOPARDS, MY FATHER, AND ME
    (pp. 83-88)
    ALI ABUTALIP DAHASHOF

    Whenever people talk about snow leopards, I can’t help but think back to my childhood, to the story of my father and the two snow leopards he killed with his bare hands.

    My father, Abutalip Dahashof, was born into a Kazak family in 1913 in the high Altai Mountain region near the place where the borders of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and China come together. By today’s standards, his family of nine lived simply and was poor. During the late 1920s the local people who lived in the Altai region of Xinjiang engaged in resistance against nationalist forces. One day in 1926...

  17. HAPPY DAYS
    (pp. 89-94)
    EVGENIY P. KASHKAROV

    As a kid growing up in Novokuznetsk, Siberia, whenever I got sick my mother would tell me that if I concentrated on the happy days of my life, good health would return more quickly. As an adult, I enjoy good health most of the time, but when I do get sick I fall back on my mother’s remedy of long ago. If I were to get sick today, my thoughts would turn to two remarkably happy days in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kirgizia. Just thinking about those days as I write this brings a smile to my face and...

  18. RAISING SHERU
    (pp. 95-102)
    NASIER A. KITCHLOO

    From my study, the knock at my door sounded faint, tentative. Usually, those who come to my home after office hours are disturbed—angry about foreign tourists not paying their bills, marauding wolves killing livestock, or crop-raiding shapo or kiang (the endemic wild sheep and wild ass). As wildlife warden for Ladakh, an area slightly smaller than Scotland, I was accustomed to after-hour visits from locals with wildlife problems and those who wanted to talk about the conservation of Ladakh’s unique wildlife heritage. Assigned to Leh from Srinagar, I tried to maintain an open business and personal environment, sensitive to...

  19. CUBS
    (pp. 103-112)
    TOM McCARTHY

    For nearly two decades I have been exceedingly privileged to have been able to make a living doing something most people can only dream of—studying snow leopards. And yes, I am one of the fortunate few, even among my peers, who has seen a wild snow leopard in its native habitat, several in fact. Not that it could ever become mundane, gazing at a beast so mythically rare and elusive. Had I seen fifty in the wild, and the actual number is not even half that, each encounter would still be as inspiring as my first. A moment with...

  20. EPIPHANY
    (pp. 113-120)
    KYLE McCARTHY

    Here I stand, in the middle of a small photo booth somewhere in the streets of Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan; in my hands is the culmination of two months worth of backbreaking effort—a washed-out photograph of a snow leopard. I think to myself, a decade ago the snow leopard tore my family to shreds. So why am I here? Why have I dragged my new wife with me to the middle of nowhere? To a diet of rotten goat meat and moldy potatoes, a toilet of curved ibex horns over a shallow hole, tea strained through teeth...

  21. PANGJE
    (pp. 121-128)
    SOM B. ALE

    October 24, 2004. Dawn gradually approached as we gathered field gear to leave for our next camp in Phorche, a small Nepali village en route to the Everest base camp. A series of piercing whistles interrupted our work. Sensing something out of the ordinary, I hurried toward the sound and spotted five Himalayan tahr whistling alarms toward the nearby cliff. Crouched low, my field assistant, Lalu, and I scanned the cliff and surrounding slopes with binoculars. Nothing moved except the occasional startled flights of Impeyan pheasants. Far away, I could hear the faint echo of a herdsman yelling at his...

  22. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  23. NOVEMBER 13
    (pp. 129-134)
    PETER MATTHIESSEN

    The last fortnight has been clear and warm, day after day, but early this morning there were wisps of cloud, which could mean a change in weather. On these last mornings, just an hour after sunrise, sun and moon are in perfect equilibrium above the snows to east and west. High cirrus in the north, seen yesterday, foretold a drop in temperature: it is 12 degrees Fahrenheit this morning. The wind on Sonido Mountain has a hard bite in it, and the lizards have withdrawn into the earth.

    From sunrise to sundown I move with the Shey herd, which has...

  24. WINTER AT CHÖRTEN NYIMA
    (pp. 135-140)
    DARLA HILLARD

    In today’s world, Chörten Nyima (Sun Shrine) lies at the place where the borders of Sikkim, Nepal, and Tibet come together. But the known history of this major Tibetan power place goes back thirteen centuries, to the time when miraculous deities carried precious relics from India on a ray of sun and deposited them at the site of Chörten Nyima. Sacred phenomena abound here: a crystal that came on the ray, medicinal springs, and an oracle lake that can foretell the future to those with a particularly pure mind.

    Conversely, a pilgrimage to Chörten Nyima, and a bath in the...

  25. THE SPIRIT OF BAGA BOGD
    (pp. 141-150)
    RODNEY JACKSON

    I had no way of knowing, when I received the gift of a jaguar head carved from greenstone, just how potent a force lived within that small talisman. He was given to me by my friend Apela Colorado, an Iriquois tribeswoman who uses her doctorate in social policy to promote consensus and collaboration between Western and indigenous scientists, by networking with shamans across the globe.

    The day I met Apela, she sized me up for a few moments, then said she had something to give me. As she lit a dry sprig of cedar, she began—in the indigenous way...

  26. GOBI MAGIC
    (pp. 151-164)
    DON HUNTER

    Each journey to the unknown begins by leaving the known. The familiar. The comfortable. Such thoughts filled my mind as I worked through my checklist for a field project in Mongolia. The last two items brought back the uneasy feeling in my stomach: #62—photos of my wife and three small sons, from whom I would be away for several weeks. I culled pictures from family albums to a handful that made me smile and turned to #63: phone my family in Tennessee to check on my father. On my last visit a few months back, Alzheimer’s disease had stolen...

  27. LEGENDS OF ZANSKAR
    (pp. 165-170)
    RINCHEN WANGCHUK

    Once upon a time, there were three friends: a snow leopard, an otter, and a house cat. One fine day, after playing among themselves, they decided to partake of a special meal. “I will hunt a fat ibex on the far slope,” said the snow leopard. The otter declared, “I will bring water from the river to quench our thirst.” “I will bring fire from the nearby village for cooking our delicious meal,” offered the house cat. Having decided so, the three went in separate directions. After much stalking, the snow leopard managed to kill a fat ibex. He then...

  28. MAGIC VALLEY
    (pp. 171-174)
    HELEN FREEMAN

    They had lived in the valley for a thousand years. They knew what life had been like before they had come to this isolated region because the Old Ones had told them. Before was a time of eternal ice, when the world was frozen and the air was filled with dread and endless cold. Now the sun had returned, and although snow stayed on the mountain peaks, in the spring streams flowed and flowers filled the meadow.

    They were the snow leopards, and this was their Magic Valley.

    The first snow leopards that had come to the valley had grown...

  29. ORGANIZATIONS AND RELATED WEBSITES
    (pp. 175-178)
  30. FURTHER READING
    (pp. 179-180)
  31. BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
    (pp. 181-188)
  32. ILLUSTRATION CREDITS
    (pp. 189-190)