Hunting permits issued by Mongolian government for endangered snow leopards rescinded following public backlash

By Helen Roddis - 24 Mar 2011 22:56:0 GMT
Public outcry causes Mongolian government to backtrack on snow leopard hunting permits

Last month, the government of Mongolia issued four hunting permits to foreign nationals that would have allowed them to hunt and kill snow leopards in the name of ''research''.

Conservationists vehemently condemned the decision, and Panthera, one of the world's leading big cat conservation organisations, started a petition against the approval to kill snow leopards for scientific research.

Almost 3,500 people signed the petition in just a two day period, and, following this huge public outcry, the permits have now been rescinded.

The snow leopard is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and as few as 3,500 to 7,000 of these enigmatic big cats are thought to remain in the wild. Only 1,200 are thought to reside in Mongolia.

The petition followed on from a letter sent by Panthera Vice President Dr. George Schaller and Snow Leopard Program Executive Director Dr. Tom McCarthy to the Honorable L. Gansukh, Mongolia's Minister of Nature, Environment and Tourism, which strongly urged that he and other government officials reconsidered their decision to issue the permits.

McCarthy and Schaller reinforced in their letter to Minister Gansukh that no valid justification exists for killing snow leopards in the name of science, and that all information one could conceivably need can now be obtained by non-lethal means. They cite advancements in research techniques, such as genetics, camera traps, GPS-satellite collars, and other tools, all of which are being used in Mongolia.

Mongolia is generally considered to be at the forefront of conservation efforts for snow leopards across their range, and its snow leopard action plan is widely thought of as a model that the other range states should seek to emulate.

This accolade makes the idea that the Mongolian government would so much as consider allowing planned hunting of snow leopards even more astonishing. Should the unnecessary killings have gone ahead, it would have irrefutably tarnished Mongolia's reputation as a leader in conservation.

Panthera applauds the government of Mongolia on its decision to withdraw the snow leopard hunting proposal, calling it the 'right one for the species and the country'.

''Hunting endangered snow leopards would not have aided research efforts in any way, so we are thrilled with Mongolia's decision,'' says Dr. Tom McCarthy.

Dr. George Schaller also explains that ''Minister Gansukh can legitimately and proudly claim that Mongolia remains steadfast and committed to conservation efforts for snow leopards in Asia, and for that, we congratulate them.''