The loss of a moral compass, the loss of snow leopards

Camera-trap picture of snow leopard in the Pamirs Photograph by S. Kachel/Panthera/AoS/University of Delaware

Camera-trap picture of snow leopard in the Pamirs (Photograph by S. Kachel/Panthera/AoS/University of Delaware)

It’s night-time in the remote and rugged Pamir mountains of Tajikistan. A snow leopard I am going to call “Bars” is walking below a cliff wall she already passed many times this month. There are interesting scents on this trail and scrapes left by other cats. She sees a new man-made rock wall forcing her to chose a path around a rock formation where some remains of ibex are scattered. There is some strangely shaped piece of metal on the ground. She steps into it. It snaps, sending a shooting pain in her leg, now broken and bleeding. Hours pass. Daylight comes and with it, two herders. Bars is in a rage heightened by her pain. She tries to escape but the herders throw a blanket over her head and a rope that is quickly tightened around her legs. She is transported to a car and thrown into a box. She then travels for hours. Changes cars. Changes hands.

Meanwhile several financial transactions happen. Bribes are paid to silence people who could report the incident. Days later, the box is finally opened. Bars is injected with something that makes her feel dizzy. She is released. She knows she is observed. But she does not have the strength to leap away in the cliffs, to safety. A vehicle thunders toward her. A man in a white camo opens the door of the vehicle and shoots her. Congratulations are exchanged. Pictures are taken with the now dead snow leopard. The hunter is hailed as a hero. Later on, at home, in front of a mesmerized audience, he will describe his epic hunt of a snow leopard, leaving some critical particulars out which could diminish the —> Read More