Working with communities in Kyrgyzstan and throughout Asia 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 3,900 and 6,300.

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

Woodland Park Zoo supports the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT). 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.

In 2015, SLT worked with the government of Kyrgyzstan to turn a former hunting reserve called Shamshy into a wildlife refuge. For many years this 100-square mile area in the northern Tian Shan mountains had been used by commercial hunting companies to host wealthy trophy hunters in search of ibex or argali—both important prey species for snow leopards. Within one year remote cameras placed in the reserve recorded the first pictures of wild snow leopards there. This is evidence that as prey populations recover, snow leopard populations can recover too.

Hope for Snow Leopards and Help for People

A Vast Footprint

Eight full-time women employees have planted and are caring for more than 100,000 seedlings in order to create wildlife corridors between the lowland and highland forests of the State of Sabah. With clear passageways, elephants now have fewer unsafe encounters and conflicts with people.

Sustainability for Livestock and People

The Snow Leopard Trust’s community-run livestock insurance program helps herder communities build a sustainable compensation mechanism to offset the cost of livestock kills by snow leopards. It makes a huge difference for these families and eliminates one of the major drivers of retaliation killings.

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.


Shop to save snow leopards


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.

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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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