Bengaluru: 42-year-old Khenrab Phuntsog is a man who deserves eulogies and encomiums. What he has done is phenomenally productive! 

He has sacrificed his life for saving snow leopards. 
Born in Chilling, a small village near Leh, watching snow leopards was not something rare. While taking out his goats and sheep out for grazing, he used to spot them. 


But it was during his grandmother’s cremation that he came close to one when he was just 12 years old. 

“I had gone with two local painters for the finishing touches on the structure where my grandmother was to be cremated. While they were at work, one of the painters pointed towards the opposite mountain slope at the snow leopard quietly waiting just above a herd of blue sheep. Initially, the rest of us didn’t see it. But when it took a couple of long leaps down, we saw it. It had caught one of the sheep and went for the kill,” he says as quoted by The Better India. 

Inspired by what he had seen, he decided to rescue snow leopards. What happened in the year 2000 eventually led to save 47 snow leopards till now, the website adds. 

Hunting snow leopards: 

The website adds that in the 70s and 80s, people would kill these animals as they would attack their livestock. But now, awareness has been created by the Wildlife Protection Department and other government agencies on the penalties of killing snow leopards. So if anyone spots these animals straying into human habitat, they inform the authorities, rather than killing them. 

Saving snow leopards: 

Ecotourism has been a boon for saving these snow leopards. 

“From 2000 onwards, the introduction of ecotourism, particularly in villages in the vicinity of areas like the Hemis National Park, played a big part in furthering the change in mindset against killing these predators. When tourists began visiting villages like Chilling to spot snow leopards and live in local homestays, the villagers began to earn enough to offset any livestock loss to the predator. Along with my colleagues Smanla Tsering and Tsering Tashi, I was involved in training local eco-guides, who ensured tourists kept the premises clean, facilitated their interaction with homestay owners, and knew where to take them to spot these creatures,” he adds. 

However, one should also note that snow leopards are still hunted for poaching and as retaliation for attacking livestock. Apart from that, as rapid urbanisation happens, there is habitat loss for them, further endangering their population. 

He signs off thus: “My objective is to create a safe habitat for them. There is no one to represent the snow leopards. I like to believe I represent them. They are critical for the maintenance of the ecological balance. We must do everything to protect them.”