The Role of Religion and Spirituality in Snow Leopard Conservation on and Around the Tibetan Plateau
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As an endangered species, snow leopards are in critical and immediate danger of extinction. In the last few decades, concerted efforts on the part of conservation organizations and various governments have created stricter legal protections and designated hundreds of kilometers of land as snow leopard habitat reserves. However, given the sparsely populated, remote and rugged landscape that snow leopards roam, difficulties arise when monitoring the species and patrolling the protected areas. Tibetan Buddhists and indigenous communities inhabit land that often overlaps with snow leopard range and their spiritual traditions and practices embody an environmental ethic that puts particular emphasis on respect for animal life, specifically including snow leopards. Geographical proximity and spiritual values that align closely with conservation principles support the argument that indigenous and Tibetan Buddhist communities are valuable, underutilized resources in the efforts to protect snow leopards in and around the Tibetan Plateau. Incorporating the traditional, local knowledge of and reverence for snow leopards with scientific approaches would create a more successful and culturally-sensitive method of conservation.