Pastoralism partnerships: Recognizing the value of local involvement in China's snow leopard conservation efforts



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Sustainability (Switzerland)






Grassroots conservation, Local ecological knowledge, Panthera uncia, Pastoralism, Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau


Pastoralists are key stakeholders in environmental management decisions in China. Thus, their involvement in wildlife conservation and research is imperative for the success of long-term initiatives. Despite the many opportunities for herders to be included in these efforts, biases have hindered knowledge exchange and collaborative outcomes. This is detrimental for species living in quickly changing landscapes reliant on effective conservation, such as that of the snow leopard (Panthera uncia). Pastoralists living in snow leopard habitats on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau of China possess a deep and intricate understanding of the environments in which they live, and can serve as strong conservation allies by playing direct roles in scientific endeavors via expert elicitation and engagement. Here, we draw on our own experiences as academically trained scientists to present a framework for broadening opportunities for local community member participation in research efforts on the species. Framework outcomes include better targeting of conservation concerns, increased integration of Western science and local ecological knowledge, additional income to the community, clearer communication and trust between conservation stakeholders, greater flexibility in research, and additional platforms for community-based conservation. We outline avenues of involvement and considerations when working with local community members in snow leopard habitat, and submit this as an example with wide-ranging applicability to other parts of the world where livelihoods are intrinsically tied to the environment.

Open Access