Student staff members at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are raising money to help save snow leopards.
Every year the staff of the Moore Hall Dormitory puts on a fundraiser. “Usually we go through a process where everybody brings in two ideas,” explains Sara Klingensmith. “This was my idea, and it was voted on and people liked it.”
A wildlife biology major Klingensmith hopes to eventually get a chance to study the large cats for herself. “It’s going to take some planning,” she says in the very soft voice her friends know her for, “it’s [the snow leopard’s habitat] on the east side of the world, and I’m in Alaska right now.”
Her voice maybe soft, but she is making herself heard. “She was really interested in trying to help the snow leopards,” says Klingensmith’s fellow resident assistant Iris Fletcher, “that’s how we became aware of this, and why we are raising money.”
“They are one of the prettiest big cats I think,” Says Fletcher, “hopefully they don’t all die
“There could be as little as 4000 individuals left, it’s in between 4000 and 7000,” recalls Klingensmith on the remaining snow leopard population. “They are so elusive it’s really hard to get an accurate count.” “They, The Snow Leopards Trust, help out the families that share their habitats. Most of these families are pastoralists, meaning they farm for a living, and they’re always worried about the snow leopard taking their livestock, losing even one animal can put them into financial hardships. So what the Snow Leopard Trust does is they created something called the Snow Leopard Enterprises.” Klingensmith is talking a bit faster and louder now. “Meaning they purchase products from the families. The women there make crafts from their wool, from the sheep that they raise, they make these in little stuffed animals, blankets, even little cat toys, and the Snow Leopard Trust will purchase they products and that increases their income by 40%, and they also have a bonus payment to the family or community that helps them protect the snow leopards. Meaning they don’t harm the snow leopards, they do things to better the protection of their livestock, and they even set aside some pasture for the snow leopards natural prey.” In a later email Klingensmith elaborated as to what the cats eat, “ Bhraral (or blue sheep) and Asiatic ibex. They will also prey on smaller animals such as marmot. Their diet depends on the season and which region they occur in.”
Klingensmith recalls a few facts she has learn about snow leopards over the last year. “They are considered a large cat, they can’t roar despite the fact that they are considered a large cat. They are actually more closely related to tigers than they are other leopards, they are very well adapted for their environment, which is very cold and arid, so they have long thick fur, they hind legs and longer than their front legs with that they can jump up to 30 feet. They have really large paws that help them stay on top of the snow, and they have some interesting morphologies going on with their face, they have a large short snout, broad nasal cavity, small rounded ears that prevents heat loss, and I think they are most active at night.”
With the intent of raising at least $500, Klingensmith and her fellow employees at Moore Hall are selling raffle tickets at $3 each or two for $5. “The prizes we have for our raffle tickets are snow leopard adoption packages, grand prize you get a snow leopard family, second place you get a snow leopard adult.” Fletcher cheerfully described from behind the table set up in the Lola Tilly Commons to sell raffle tickets,” [for] third place you get a snow leopard kitten. And you get the corresponding size, or sizes plushy as well as a picture, a certificate, cool information, a subscription to their monthly newsletter. As well as a bunch of other cool stuff, that on the website just says ‘plus much more’ so we don’t know what else is coming yet.”
“We bought them from the Snow Leopard Trust, that way we knew if we didn’t sell enough raffle tickets to donate money to them we were still giving them money by buying the prizes form them, just to help give back even more form them.” Recounts Fletcher.
The drawing, which will be held of April 20th, has been attracting university students who share Klingensmith’s passion for saving the planet’s wildlife. Moments after buying raffle tickets Gabriel Ciuro an exchange student from Purto Rico expressed his reasons for the purchase, “I think what those guys are doing it really good, people should help protect the animals because we are the only ones that can protect them. They are being killed and moved away from their habit because of us.”
To visit The Snow Leopard Trust online click on their name.