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Leap into action at Chester Zoo for snow leopards with WWF Walk for Wildlife

24 August 2006

With its unique spotted coat and bushy tail, the snow leopard is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful creatures in the world. However, it is a species fighting for survival with only an estimated 300-500 snow leopards left living in the mountains of Nepal, known as Nepal’s ‘Sacred Himalayan Landscape’ and only about 4000 left in the world. WWF is therefore asking people to leap into action to help raise funds to protect these amazing creatures and join our sponsored walk taking place at Chester Zoo on Sunday 8 October.

At the zoo there will not only be the opportunity to walk around beautiful award-winning gardens and see 400 different species of animal but there will also be face painting, games and competitions and a goody bag for all participants. All registered fundraisers will also have a chance to win one of some fantastic prizes from Canon in a free prize draw.

WWF Walk for Wildlife 2006 events, supported by Canon1, are also taking place across the UK 2. Konnie Huq, BBC Presenter and Ben Fogle, WWF Ambassador and Television Presenter, are both supporting this year’s walk to help WWF highlight the plight of snow leopards.

These majestic big cats live among the alpine meadows and rocky mountains of Central Asia but its habitat is under threat, mainly because humans are encroaching upon its territory. Hunted for its fur, which is prized in Tibet for costume adornment, and for its bones, which like tiger bones, are used to make pills and potions within Traditional Chinese Medicine, time is running out for these big cats.

“The snow leopard has adapted to live in one of the world’s harshest mountain terrain but it remains one of the most endangered of the big cats. Every step you take on this year’s WWF Walk for Wildlife will help raise funds to protect this magnificent animal and continue vital conservation work in the Nepal’s Sacred Himalayan Landscape” said: Ben Fogle, WWF Ambassador and Television Presenter.

To help address the growing threat posed to snow leopards by illegal trade and human-snow leopard conflict, WWF is currently working with other organisations on a Regional Snow Leopard Action Strategy. WWF is also helping to fund Snow Leopard Conservation Committees, local groups comprising of herders, women, village leaders and elders. In Nepal, these committees are responsible for monitoring and protecting snow leopards in their local area. They also run educational programmes and activities to help deter poaching and retaliatory killings. Last year, one committee destroyed over 200 traps and snares.

WWF Walk for Wildlife events are a fun way to get involved and try to raise vital funds to help protect snow leopards in Nepal’s ‘Sacred Himalayan Landscape’. So for a great day out with friends and family, please call, 01483 426333 to register for the walk or visit the WWF website at: www.wwf.org.uk/walk.

Editor's Notes:
1. Canon has supported the WWF Walk for Wildlife for the past six years and is one of WWF’s first conservation partners. Canon is an established world-leading provider of imaging and information technology solutions designed to enable individuals to achieve their goals.
Canon Prize Draws
• Walkers who raise £150 or more will be entered in a prize draw to win one of 25 Canon PowerShot A430 digital cameras with 4.0 Megapixel and 4 times optical zoom
• Our top individual fundraiser will receive a Canon PowerShot A620 digital camera with 7.1 Megapixel CCD sensor and 20 shooting modes
• Schools and Teams who raise £500 or more will be entered into a prize draw to win one of ten CanoScan 4200F compact scanners
• Participants who register for one of WWF’s Walk for Wildlife ten flagship walks will be entered into a prize draw to win a Canon camera.

2. List of venues where walks will be taking place:
Banham Zoo (Norfolk), Chester Zoo (Chester), Cotswold Wildlife Park (Oxfordshire), Greenwich Park (London), Hazlehead Park (Scotland), Knole Park (Kent), Marwell Zoo (Hampshire), Polesden Lacey (Surrey), Sutton Park (Sutton Coldfield), Whipsnade Wildlife Animal Park (Bedfordshire).

Background

In Nepal, the villages located in the mountains are very remote and the people that live there survive in very harsh surroundings. They depend almost entirely upon their livestock (yak, horses, sheep and goats) for their income, and the habitat requirements of these animals overlap with that of the snow leopard. This creates an environment where opportunistic snow leopards prey on grazing livestock. The snow leopards are then killed as herders try to protect their animals.

Herders living along Nepal’s northern border are also known to exchange snow leopard bones for breeding stock. The sale of bones offers the vulnerable mountain communities an opportunity to generate substantial income as law enforcement is weak. Nepal is also used as a transit route in the region for trade in snow leopard and other wildlife parts. WWF is therefore working with the communities to find ways to help both people and the snow leopards. For example, there is a compensation scheme in which the whole village pays into a fund, which after a period of time is paid back to each villager as a dividend to help replace livestock killed by snow leopards and to repair any damage to the stone shelters where livestock are kept at night. By making these shelters predator-proof, snow leopards will no longer pose such a risk to the livestock. WWF believes that only by involving local communities in conservation strategies such as this, can we hope to secure a long-term future for this most beautiful of big cats.

General images, celebrity images, Walk 2006 logo etc are available upon request from the contacts below.

For further information please contact:

Robin Clegg
Senior Press Officer-Regional
Phone: 07771 818707
Mobile:07771 818707
E-mail: rclegg@wwf.org.uk