I am delighted to extend my heartfelt welcome to the inaugural edition of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) newsletter, marking a significant milestone as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Bishkek Declaration.
The GSLEP program stands as a beacon of collaboration, uniting all twelve nations where the majestic snow leopard finds its habitat. Over the past decade, this program has been instrumental in shedding light on the challenges facing snow leopards and their ecosystems. It has not only raised awareness but also fueled the momentum for funding, catalyzed collaborative initiatives, and disseminated policy advisories that have made a profound impact across the entire region. By fostering dialogue and cooperation between government agencies and non-governmental stakeholders, the program champions inclusive, science-based, and ethical conservation practices.
It fills me with immense pride to share that Bhutan currently holds the distinguished role of chairing the Steering Committee of the GSLEP Program, a position represented by Environment Ministers from all range countries. Snow leopards grace the highland ecosystems of northern Bhutan, serving as iconic figures in our alpine landscapes. In a recent milestone event, we proudly announced the results of a comprehensive snow leopard population assessment conducted across our nation, utilizing cutting-edge methodological tools developed under the PAWS (Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards) initiative of the GSLEP program. This monumental achievement was the result of the tireless efforts of more than 80 of our rangers, who dedicated ten months to the setup, monitoring, and retrieval of camera traps at over 300 stations. Their diligent work involved data collection, sorting through over a million images, and sophisticated data analysis. While snow leopards face threats such as habitat degradation, prey depletion, human-wildlife conflicts, and the challenges posed by climate change across their range, it is a source of great satisfaction that Bhutan’s snow leopard population continues to thrive with robust numbers. This success is attributed to sound environmental policies, the steadfast support of the Royal Government of Bhutan, the invaluable contributions of conservation partners, donors, and the unwavering dedication of our forestry professionals, particularly our dedicated frontline rangers.
I extend my warmest congratulations to the GSLEP Secretariat for sustaining the spirit of collaboration in snow leopard conservation programs across the entire range. The launch of this newsletter fills me with joy, and I wish the GSLEP Secretariat every success in expanding the network of support from all snow leopard range countries. It is my hope that our policymakers, conservation partners, and all relevant stakeholders will reaffirm their unwavering commitment to preserving our iconic snow leopards for the well-being of generations to come.
Lyonpo Loknath Sharma
Minister Energy and Natural Resources
Royal Government of Bhutan
Chair, Steering Committee GSLEP