Shepherd dog for conservation
To ease this situation, the Snow leopard project along with other actions such as increasing productivity of livestock so that the nomads can keep number of livestock in adequate quantity etc., traditional shepherd dog – Bankhar was reintroduced. Without shepherd dog, herders are forced to stay awake during long cold winter nights. Historically, bankhar was a crucial part of the nomadic herder’s life, as they are trained as guardian shepherds of the livestock. They are extremely loyal and intelligent that they understand their owners and always considered as a member of the family.
Elders say with pride and sorrow that Bankhar never dies next to owner’s home, neither livestock. They hide from their beloved owners and flock when they took the last breath. Herders would tell a lot of interesting myths about Bankhar dog such as wolves doesn’t near or attack flocks when they hear Bankhar’s voice as barking, they protect offspring animals from diurnal birds at the pastures, guide the herder and flocks to find their home even during the hardest snow storms. “In the 21st century, there is no modification would replace shepherd dog Bankhar in protecting livestock” Bayanjargal, an experienced herder exclaimed.
If there are attacks on the herd, it creates conflict between herders and endangered predators like a snow leopard. Furthermore, it causes negative impact on traditional herding lifestyle and economy and conservation policy. This type of hunting is defined as retaliation killing for livestock loss and is one of the main threats to the snow leopard, an endangered species.
Mongolia is in fact, home to the second largest population of the snow leopard, following China. Snow leopards are highly adapted to their natural habitat in the cold high mountains and steppe of 12 Central Asian countries. WWF-Mongolia has a big ambition to secure the future of the second largest global population of the snow leopard through involvement of local communities.
Snow leopard considered as an indicator species whose health tells us about the state of the environment where they live. When the snow leopard suffers, it is a sign that the mountains and the rivers are also suffering. Put simply, lose the snow leopard and we lose the source of the freshwater that millions of people living downstream depend on. Thus, WWF-Mongolia emphasizes the importance of combining conversation effort of endangered species like snow leopard with traditional herding by using Bankhars as a guardian of the livestock.
WWF-Mongolia’s “Future of the land of snow leopard” project has collaborated with Mongolian Bankhar Federation to bring together 20 Bankhar puppies to 12 herders who identified as vulnerable to predators and resides around Darviin Nuruu mountain range which has the most conflict between herders and snow leopards out of the project target mountains.
It`s our first pilot conservation intervention to tackle to a conflict between herders and snow leopards by re-introducing Bankhar puppies to the herders.
Enkhbileg D. Project coordinator, highlighted that “Distribution of puppies acts as a reward for those herders, whose rangeland is near snow leopard’s habitat. Bringing Bankhars to the Altai mountains will help us achieve our project goal to secure the future of second largest population of snow leopard with tangible conservation impact”.
In practice, puppies form an early bond with the herd of sheep, goats and other livestock such as cows, horses and camels and they protect the herd for life from predators like snow leopards, and Mongolian gray wolves.