The “Jane Goodall” of Snow Leopards


Conjuring the Spirit of the Himalaya Ghost Cat

“Love at first sight,” is how conservationist Helen Freeman described assembly a pair of Earth’s rarest creatures one fateful day in 1972. Nicholas and Alexandra had made the lengthy journey from Russia (then referred to as the Soviet Union), to be raised and studied at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington. Their silvery white fur, marbled by darkish rosettes, seemed like naked timber in a snow storm. Their piercing eyes met Helen’s, and with unbridled compassion, she embraced the cubs as her personal. The siblings have been an enormous cat species so obscure, native communities had consigned their form to the identify, ‘Ghost of the Mountains.’ However Helen Freeman was decided to avoid wasting them, and their snow leopard kin, from vanishing from their Himalayan residence.

Freeman was volunteering for the zoo’s veterinary workers when she fell in love. The place was an uncommon calling for a lady educated in enterprise administration and born right into a household of Greek immigrant café-owners. Nevertheless, Freeman was drawn to animals and was curious to study extra about their habits—a craving that finally led her again to the College of Washington to earn a second diploma.

A pair of adorable snow leopard cubs

The numerous hours spent observing Nicholas and Alexandra developed right into a multinational analysis venture, launching a sequence of profitable captive-breeding applications. In 1979, Freeman was promoted to the zoo’s Curator of Schooling and tasked with growing public consciousness in regards to the threats snow leopards confronted. She taught guests in regards to the significance of defending endangered felines and preserving their pure habitat.

Although Freeman stuffed this position till 1986, she needed to do extra for the species. She believed the best solution to save snow leopards from extinction can be to encourage the native communities in Asia who lived amongst them. So, with cultural id and grassroots efforts on the coronary heart of her mission, Freeman based the Snow Leopard Belief in 1981. On the time of Freeman’s passing in September of 2007, the Belief employed a range of workers all through China, India, Mongolia, Pakistan and the Kyrgyz Republic.

Her Leopard Legacy Lives On

On July 6, 2017, a male leopard was born at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, carrying ahead the legacy of Helen Freeman, for whom the cub’s mom was named in honor. The zoo celebrated with the next announcement: “Helen’s cub shall be an exquisite ambassador for its wild cousins, and we’re very excited to welcome him to the world and to our yard!”

Below Helen’s management, the Snow Leopard Belief fostered integral relationships with the worldwide conservation group and established conservation and analysis applications throughout the 12 vary nations (Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan—a variety that covers an space of almost 772,204 sq. miles, with 60 % of the habitat present in China).

Woodland Park Zoo has remained an vital ally all through the group’s 40+ years of existence. “Helen made a particular reference to the snow leopards on the zoo and got here to grasp how these animals are conservation ambassadors for his or her cousins within the wild. Her drive to guard the species led her to construct a company that works with actual communities to avoid wasting these animals of their pure habitat. We miss Helen, however are proud to be a part of serving to her work and dream proceed to succeed,” shared former Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen.

All through her illustrious profession, Freeman consorted with Maharajas in India, trekked the Himalayas in Nepal, sailed the Yangtze River to Chungking in China and arranged snow leopard symposia throughout the continents. She acquired quite a few awards and acknowledgments for her achievements, together with the Alumni Achievement Award from Washington State College in 1990, Acknowledgment of Appreciation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1997, the distinguished Evergreen Award in 1998–“In Recognition of Worldwide Partnerships in Wildlife Conservation and Understanding,” and likewise a medal of honor from the Woodland Park Zoological Society.

Two snow leopards endangered big cats of the Himalayas majestic and elegant

Save the Spirit of the Mountains with Nat Hab & WWF

Freeman’s tireless efforts to guard this snowy spectral are supported by Pure Habitat Adventures and World Wildlife Fund. Greater than 70 % of snow leopard habitat stays unexplored. By our modern Journey Partnership, we’re remodeling how individuals understand snow leopards with conservation by exploration.

Photographed by Nat Hab & WWF Expedition Chief © Surya Ramachandran

Snow leopards not solely play a key position in managing prey species populations as an apex predator, however they’re additionally sentinels of snow—melting snow that’s. They function indicators of the impacts of local weather change and human encroachment on the well being of their high-altitude environments. If snow leopards thrive, so will numerous different species, in addition to the biggest freshwater reservoirs of the planet. This large cat is below menace, nonetheless; poaching for his or her fur and bones, habitat fragmentation, prey depletion and retaliatory killings ensuing from human-wildlife battle are driving them to the sting.

Within the Jap Himalayas, WWF reduces human-leopard battle by serving to native communities set up predator-proof pens for his or her livestock, create livelihood enterprises and innovate native insurance coverage. WWF additionally works on public education schemes, together with with goat herders in Mongolia, to construct consciousness.

You possibly can study extra in regards to the snow leopard plight by watching the video under or any of the opposite Day by day Dose of Nature webinars we host!

If you happen to’re feeling adventurous, be part of us on our subsequent journey to the Land of the Snow Leopard and seek for these mysterious cats within the heights of Ladakh alongside high trackers and naturalists!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here