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Reconciling Sustainable Development of Mountain Communities With Large Carnivore Conservation : Lessons From Pakistan

Tatjana Rosen, Shafqat Hussain, Ghulam Mohammad, Rodney Jackson, Jan E. Janecka, Stefan Michel
Mountain research and development 2012 v.32 no.3 pp. 286-293
Panthera uncia, carnivores, education, governance, guidelines, human-wildlife relations, insurance, livestock, sustainable development, wildlife
While the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent, physically and culturally, the wildlife of remote mountain regions is being affected both positively and negatively by such interconnectedness. In the case of snow leopards, the conservation impact has been largely, and rather unexpectedly, positive: Species-focused conservation projects, such as Project Snow Leopard (PSL) in Gilgit-Baltistan, remain mainly externally driven initiatives. PSL, initiated as a small pilot project in 1998, has relied on an approach that includes the use of an insurance scheme, the deployment of mitigation measures, and the empowerment of local governance. This approach has been successful in reducing the conflict with snow leopards and has built greater tolerance toward them. PSL is managed by local communities and cofinanced by them. PSL communities throughout the region are bearing the burden of carnivore conservation, and they are unwittingly subsidizing their populations by “feeding” them their livestock even though they are an economic threat to them. In this article, we argue that external intervention in the form of efforts that help alleviate the consequences of conflict through local empowerment have had a positive impact on the local mountain societies. We also show that such interventions have resulted in tangible conservation results, with the number of snow leopards staying at least stable. Our experience also shows that while the incentive component is critical, it is also part of a larger approach—one that includes developing and supporting local governance structures, improving access to education, and offering a range of tools to reduce the conflict that can be implemented locally. Finally, we suggest that investing in this approach—one that recognizes the species and local-context complexities surrounding the implementation of conservation incentives—can continue to inform international practices and guidelines for reducing human–wildlife conflicts worldwide.