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How dogs can protect Snow Leopards

Updated on November 5, 2018
A mother snow leopard with her cub
A mother snow leopard with her cub | Source

My enemy is now my friend

It is a female snow leopard and her cub that a group of villagers in the extreme northwest of Pakistan is watching huddled together with expressions that show a mixture of awe, admiration, and affection. This is the first time they are having an experience with a snow leopards at a very personal level. When asked how he feels after watching the animals, an elderly villager expressed his thoughts: “This is my enemy, but no now this is my friend”.

They were watching a video being shown to them by wildlife conservationist Nisar Malik, who was visiting them after hearing the news that a snow leopard killed one of their sheep.

Denizens of Himalayas, Karakorum, and Hindukush mountain ranges of Pakistan, snow leopards are extremely rare felines and when they get into a conflict with humans, it has dire consequences. Being top predators, they prey on Markhors (wild goat), but if their prey thins out, they descend to lower valleys and try to feast on livestock.

Snow Leopard on the prowl through the courtesy of The Lovely Planet.
Snow Leopard on the prowl through the courtesy of The Lovely Planet. | Source

This means that they have picked a war with humans and this is not good at all. A snow leopard may win a battle by taking away a sheep one day, but then it is starting a losing war.

So how do we save snow leopards from preying on livestock and putting their own lives in danger? Well, conservationists all over the world are finding a new relationship with our best animal friend – the dog – to achieve just that. Through the stories below, I am suggesting that similar initiative can be taken to indirectly protect the beautiful snow leopards in the higher mountain ranges of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Bhutan.

Anatolian Shepherd Dog guarding a flock of goats.
Anatolian Shepherd Dog guarding a flock of goats. | Source

1. Anatolian Shepherd Dogs for protection of cheetahs

In Namibia, Anatolian Shepherd Dogs (ASDs) are effectively saving endangered cheetahs from being killed by the local farmers and cattle and sheep grazers. This is how it works. When cheetahs leave their wilderness and intentionally or unintentionally cross into land where humans graze their livestock, they try to make an easy meal of goats or sheep there. In retaliation local men kill them.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund breeds and provides ASDs to these local people for guarding their livestock. Now if a cheetah sneaks in, it is confronted by these vicious large size dogs. No cheetah will want to get into this dangerous confrontation and will return to Savannah to hunt its natural prey. The results show that the number of cheetahs killed by humans has drastically dropped ever since ASDs have been employed for livestock guardian duties.

Details of the story can be found here:


2. Maremma Shepherd Dogs for protection of penguins

Middle Island is a tiny spot of land off Warrnambool, Victoria in southern Australia. This island has recently come into the headlines of a major conservation effort regarding the endangered Fairy penguins living there. At one time 5,000 of these defenseless birds used to live in a colony on the island. However, by 2006, only 10 penguins were all that remained. Culprit? Island predators, as William Stolzenburg mentions in his recent book ‘Rat Island’, foxes and dingoes.


The Warranambool City Council received $15,000 in grants from Powercor Corp. and a local governmental Authority to fund an innovative conservation project. Two pups of Maremma sheepdogs, a beautiful white furred livestock guardian dog breed, were brought in and introduced to the island and the penguins. The Maremmas quickly developed a bond with the penguins and succeeded in keeping foxes and other predators away ensuring that bird population could recover. Today, the penguin population has increased to at least 80 adults and 26 chicks.

Details of the story can be read here:

Someone is killed by a tiger every 10 days in the forests of the Sundarbans.
Someone is killed by a tiger every 10 days in the forests of the Sundarbans. | Source

3. Stray dogs for protection of Sunderban tigers

Tigers look beautiful when they are in zoos, but Sundarbans man-eaters kill 50 people every year, mostly when the villagers enter the forests for daily living. Tigers are top predators of Sunderbans. However, older, sick tigers, who are unable to hunt their natural prey, find that humans and their livestock are easier to take. This brings them into confrontation with humans and with that the balance of power changes against tigers.


Many tigers have been hunted down by villagers in retaliation. It is estimated that only 300-500 of these gorgeous cats survive in their historical stronghold of Sunderbans.

In order to deter the prowling tigers from fringes of human settlement, stray dogs in Bangladesh are being trained by Conservationists Monirul Khan and Adam Barlow from ZSL (a conservation organization).

Can the stray dogs chase a tiger just like these are chasing a bike? Research says a litter growing up together can do it..
Can the stray dogs chase a tiger just like these are chasing a bike? Research says a litter growing up together can do it.. | Source

The principles at work here are ‘Alert system and intimidation’. By training a number of stray dogs, Khan and Barlow are expecting that the stray dogs will raise an alarm when they feel a tiger is approaching a village enabling the villagers to quickly seek safety. In addition, the dogs, being greater in numbers and quicker, can harass a tiger to the extent that it leaves the area. Thus, an unnecessary confrontation between tigers and humans is avoided. Monirul Khan and Adam Barlow have found that the stray dogs from the same litter are more defense-aggressive and reliable as guards against tigers of Sunderbans. This is an innovative approach to tiger conservation.

4. Dogs for protection of bears

British Columbia, Canada probably has highest concentration of black bears per square km in the world. It is common to find bears foraging for food in the dumpsters near human settlement. Bears are a smart animal and will enter homes for raiding on food items stored in kitchens. The two ways to discourage bears from doing that are ‘relocation’ and creating, now proverbial, ‘fear factor’.

For relocation, bears are tranquilized and then dispatched to a wild region far away from human settlements. In this scenario, a minor issue is that these bears are able to find their way back. A bigger issue is that the relocated bears ‘feel lost’ in the new environment. They have no knowledge of dominant males and females in the area, and of food and water sources. It goes unreported, but researchers have found that most of these bears die without possessing this knowledge essential for survival.

A better way to discourage bears from approaching human settlements is to set dogs on them without the intention of injuring or killing them. This is what a more popular practice is in US state of Montana and Canada's province of Alberta. Usually Coonhounds or Karelian Bear Dogs are used for this purpose. However, any other hound breed can be used as long as they are able to work in teams and harass the bears into treeing or fleeing away.

To summarize, what happens here is this: a bear approaches a human settlement. It gets chased by humans and their dogs. It gets treed by faster and quicker dogs. It is let go with a hope that it has learnt its lesson. A bear is never killed. Teaching it a lesson for its own benefit is the primary purpose here.

A Muslim woman with her Bakarwal Dog leading her flock.
A Muslim woman with her Bakarwal Dog leading her flock. | Source


The villagers in the northern mountains of Pakistan need assistance in protection of their livestock and in protection of 'their' snow leopards. And helping them use livestock guardian dogs is a feasible option.

The high mountain ranges of Asian sub-continent have their own dog breeds that can be trained to protect livestock and keep snow leopards away. For example, one of the breeds found in the extreme northwest of Pakistan is the Vikhan Sheepdog, also known as Chitrali or Pakistani sheepdog. This breed can be trained and put to work straight away, as can be more accessible Bakarwal dogs from Kashmir region. Alternatively, livestock guardian dogs capable of working in mountainous terrain can be imported and put to work. Given that stray dogs are also common near these mountain villages, they can be a much better bet for training and guarding the livestock.

A snow leopard showcased in the Royal Ontario Museum.
A snow leopard showcased in the Royal Ontario Museum. | Source

A bigger challenge may be obtaining the buy-in of the villagers on using dogs for protection of their livestock. This can be done through training seminars and through involvement of other communities, such as Gujjar community, who already uses livestock guardian or companion dogs. Indeed, the Gujjars migrating to the lower valleys with their flocks of sheep being guarded by livestock guardian dogs make a captivating scene that has been captured by many a professional photographers.

In short, we need to protect snow leopards for our future generation.There will be nothing more abhorable than to see the only surviving members of this beautiful animal in the zoos and wildlife parks or, worse still, showcased in the museums.


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    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Greensleeves Hubs,

      Thanks for leaving detailed comments.

      Livestock guardian dogs or LGDs are usually bonded to the livestock and the shepherds so they usually don't go stray.

      I suggested the idea to WWF Pakistan and found that they have opted for a community based insurance program instead. So at least there is an alternate that seems to be working.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      4 years ago from Essex, UK

      I love the theory behind this approach to conservation of potentially dangerous wild animals which come into contact with humans Suhail, and on the face of it the examples you give appear to have a very sound practicality in the way they work.

      Of course idealistically, no one interested in the conservation of these animals will really like the idea of using dogs to chase them away, but in the real world, it's surely infinitely preferable to the alternative - humans using guns or traps or poison to kill them. If it allows snow leopards, tigers or cheetahs to live close to - but not in direct competition with - humans, then that's got to be good.

      I'm sure there are risks if such an approach is not carefully monitored - if the dogs are allowed to roam free and hunt (rather than simply bark or chase away) then they could do more harm than good, and if they 'go wild', then stray dogs could have an unintentional yet serious impact on vulnerable local prey species (ground nesting birds for example). But as long as the dogs are controlled, then this seems like a very practical, semi-natural way to enable humans and wild cats or bears to co-exist without either suffering.

      Is this idea now being applied to help protect the remaining snow leopards do you know?

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi FlourishAway,

      I believe that the dogs are almost living alongside humans now and being taken care of as primary protectors against tigers. I also think if dogs like Karelian bear dogs were available in that part of the world, they would make even better protectors for their ability to harass transgressing wildlife is huge.

      For protecting livestock against snow leopards, livestock guardian dogs can be very helpful and are amazingly affordable too.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Man's best friend proves his usefulness over and over. I do hope the stray dogs that are used for human/tiger protection get some kind of food reward for their part in the deal. Interesting, well written hub and I enjoyed reading. Voted up and more.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Although large areas can be and have been set aside, I think that humans and wildlife can coexist peacefully, as the recent work in Pakistan's northern areas shows (also captured in the video in this hub). Another example is of Indian leopards in Pakistani sub-Himalayas. They were being killed if they ventured out into a city. Now because of the public awareness campaign, people have started respecting them.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very interesting Suhail. Anything that works to protect and save the Tigers and Snow Leopards is worth doing. I have not heard about these projects using trained dogs to help reduce confrontations with humans, very interesting and worthwhile. Voting up and sharing.

    • profile image 

      8 years ago from upstate, NY

      The snow leopard along with the Tiger are among the worlds most beautiful and graceful creatures, although if I lived with them I might not have such a romantic view of them.

      I think that for these endangerous animals to survive, there will have to be large areas set aside with very few people in them. As long as enough people value them, they will have a chance to survive.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      And the good thing is that there are many more. Dogs are being used in many type of activities for wildlife and nature conservation.

    • Nettlemere profile image


      8 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      This is a really interesting introduction to some projects I'd not come across. I never imagined dogs could be used to protect penguins.

    • livingsta profile image


      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      This was a useful and interesting hub. Thank you for sharing your ideas and experiences with us. Votes up and sharing!

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      I noticed that you have lived in and travelled to some very exciting countries. I will myself be visiting Namibia and South Africa in future, but I want to do something unusual. Also, a boat trip through Zambezi River instead may be a good idea. I think you have a hub on it.

      Dogs are being increasingly used in wildlife conservation, but there is one area that has turned me into a nervous wreck and that is Rhino wars going on. Poachers have now turned into militant terrorists just to get those horns for fake medicines. I don't know how are we going to stop that.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      8 years ago

      Fascinating hub, I have not heard of the Anatolian Shepherd dogs of Namibia. (A country I will be exploring next year). Dogs are such wonderful creatures and to know their repetoire of assistance to humans and animals alike warms my heart. Thank you. Voted Up, Interesting, Useful and Beauftiful.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON


      Thank you for leaving encouraging comments. I appreciate your reading the hub.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Suhail, you've proved the point that our best friend certainly helps us in more ways than one! Thanks for sharing this...and am so glad to hear that the fairy penguin population has increased. Thanks for sharing!

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      KoffeeKlatch Gals,

      Yes, it will be very interesting to see how it works out. One thing is for sure though. Livestock guardian dogs are doing pretty well guarding their charges all around the world.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      What wonderful things they are doing with dogs these days. How great that they can help an in-danger species. I'm interested in seeing how it all works.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you Ardie.

      One of my missions in life is to convince people to use dogs for working. Livestock Guardian Dogs can be easily put into work that can help both humans and nature. In one of my hubs I mentioned of a person who was using a gun dog to point at birds for his photography. That was an awesome use.

    • Ardie profile image


      8 years ago from Neverland

      I love the answer of using man's best friend to protect wildlife. Your stories illustrate the point so perfectly. Dogs CAN protect these beautiful creatures from their own predatory instincts...Great Hub and contribution :)

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you midget38 for supporting this strategy.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      We should all use Man's Best Friend as an example because they teach us so much. The perfect candidates to bridge the gap between man and these animals in danger. Thanks for sharing, and I share too.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON


      Almost every country has its own livestock guardian dog breeds and most of them haven't yet been recognized by the well known kennel clubs of the world. Those are working dog breeds and are healthy. Actually, it is good that they have not been taken over by the fancy dog breeders yet.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have not heard about many of these dog breeds but it is good to know that they exist and for the purposes that you mentioned in helping to preserve wildlife in various parts of the world. This is a truly interesting hub. Voted up, interesting and will share.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Thank you xstatic for paying my hub a visit. I believe that the pressure of human over-population on nature is so much that we need to harness all available resources to ensure that our natural heritage passes on to our next generation without any further depletion.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      8 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      This is a really informative hub about conservation of wildlife issues and innovative techniques being developed to keep predators from being wiped out. I never heard of some of the dog breeds you mention, but they sound interesting and well-suited to the work.

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON


      I believe that livestock guardian dogs, if properly bonded, can be a great asset in this regard. For example, there is a dog that is being used to track and protect kakapos (an Australian parrot saved from the verge of extinction) and their nests so that the birds could be provided with 24x7 security. Kakapos vanished from all NZL islands due to invasive species (rats, foxes, ferrets, etc.).


      The answer to your first question is there is absolutely no need for any dog to climb high altitude mountains. Dogs will be required by the villagers who live in the valleys surrounded by high mountains. The answer to your second question is yes. LGDs are being used in highly populated areas of Italy and Switzerland to protect livestock. One of the examples I gave above in the hub is using stray dogs to protect tigers in highly populated region of Sunderbans of Bangla Desh.

    • profile image

      Ammar Zubaid Ahmad 

      8 years ago

      Awesome article. I am curious to know though, is there any breed of dog that can survive on high altitudes and steep mountain floors? Also, would dogs even be effective if we fail to curb population growth in those regions?

    • Suhail and my dog profile imageAUTHOR

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      8 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Dr. Mark,

      Thank you very much for voting and sharing my hub. As a lover of livestock guardian dogs (LGDS), even I discovered this well known breed of Italy as recently as in 2010. Maremmas are being extensively used as LGDs in their native country and in the USA, Canada, Australia, etc.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      8 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      A wonderful work. Perhaps we need dogs to handle the care and protection of birds that are becoming extinct in the world. Awesome and up!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      8 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Interesting to hear of all of these efforts! I had not even heard of the Maremma dogs project. Thanks for sharing this information with us. Voted up and sharing on HP.


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