Snow Leopard Conservation

Working with communities in Kyrgyzstan to protect endangered snow leopards


The snow leopard, also known as the “ghost of the mountains”, is an elusive and mysterious big cat native to the high mountain ranges of Asia. Facing threats such as poaching, retaliation killings by local pastoral communities, and the loss of habitat and prey, this feline is now one of the world’s most endangered big cats. In the wild, their population is estimated to be between 4,000 and 8,000.

A future for the snow leopard is rooted in working with communities that share its habitat. Herders, farmers and wildlife rangers living in Asia’s mountainous regions are our most important partners in the fight against poaching and killing of these endangered cats.



Snow Leopard Trust

A Woodland Park Zoo Conservation Partner

Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) is saving these threatened cats. Based in Seattle, it was created in 1981 by the late Woodland Park Zoo staff member Helen Freeman. Through innovative programs, effective partnerships, and the latest science, the SLT is saving these endangered cats and improving the lives of people who live in the snow leopard countries of Central Asia including Russia, Afghanistan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan.

The Snow Leopard Trust first began working in Kyrgyzstan in 2001. They are working in the country with the Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan (SLFK), a local organization. The focus of this work is on education, monitoring, anti-poaching initiatives, snow leopard enterprises, and protecting snow leopard habitat.

Hope for Snow Leopards and Help for People

A Vast Footprint

In 2016, under an agreement with the Kyrgyz government, SLFK has been successfully managing a 200 km2 wildlife refuge in the Ala-Too Mountains called “Shamshy.” Previously Shamshy was a hunting concession used by commercial hunting companies to host wealthy trophy hunters in search of ibex or argali—both important prey species for snow leopards. Snow leopards use the area and have been captured multiple times since 2016 by research cameras (including females with cubs). Two rangers regularly patrol the reserve to help prevent poaching and help with wildlife surveys.

Sustainability for Livestock and People

In 2020, the program signed another agreement with the Kyrgyz government to bring an additional 1,100 km2 of the Ala-Too Mountains under protection, comprising of two regions called Ak-Suu and Kochkor. Preliminary camera trap surveys of these regions by SLFK (2018-2019) provided a rough idea of snow leopard presence, with 17 individual cats identified.

Community Education

In 2021, over 300 children and their teachers from 20 schools from multiple regions of Kyrgyzstan have been participating in an online education program which focuses on the biodiversity of Kyrgyzstan, including snow leopards. By the summer of 2021, the Covid-19 situation had improved in Kyrgyzstan, and the team were able to restart the popular eco-camps. Throughout the summer, 58 students (over half of them girls) from 15 rural schools attended four night, three full day eco-camps in Shamshy to learn about the local ecology and conservation.


Shop to save snow leopards


Creating Livelihoods for Communities

SLT’s Snow Leopard Enterprises works with more than 400 women from 40 communities across snow leopard range to provide a market for handicrafts in return for a pledge to protect snow leopards. Since inception, total revenue for communities exceeds $1 million with handicrafts available in the ZooStore.

snow leopard

Successful conservation efforts begin with education, empathy and wise consumer choices—beginning with the handicrafts made by the women who live in snow leopard habitat. Woodland Park Zoo’s ZooStores carry a wide range of these handmade items, including felted wool hats, slippers, scarves and ornaments. All proceeds from this conservation commerce help support communities, like those in Kyrgyzstan, that are now committed to helping protect snow leopards. You can also purchase these products, plus snow leopard t-shirts, caps, calendars, magnets and more directly from the Snow Leopard Trust.



Our Mission

Woodland Park Zoo saves wildlife and inspires everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives.

Land Acknowledgment

Woodland Park Zoo recognizes that these are the lands of the Tribal signatories of the Treaty of Point Elliott. We acknowledge their stewardship of this place continues to this day and that it is our responsibility to join them to restore the relationship with the living world around us.

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