The role of Tibetan sacred sites in snow leopard conservation

Zi-Yun Zhu

Zaduo County, located in the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, is the headwater area of the Mekong River and the Yellow River. It has the largest continuous snow leopard habitat in China. Only few parts of the habitat are covered by the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve. However, the Tibetan sacred nature sites managed by local monasteries cover much of the habitat. These sacred sites, with taboos and rules, are honoured by indigenous Tibetan people. This project aims to evaluate the role of sacred sites in snow leopard conservation. We will catalogue all the sacred sites in Zaduo County, analyse the spatial relationship of sacred mountains and the snow leopard habitat and record associated taboos. Then we will choose three sacred nature sites and three control sites, to examine whether the habitat utilization of snow leopard inside the sacred mountains is higher than that outside and to examine whether the density of blue sheep (main food of snow leopard) is higher inside the sacred sites. We will also set up a monastery based snow leopard monitor programme. Traditional Tibetan culture can contribute to snow leopard conservation through this project.