Alone, neither science nor indigenous knowledge can stop the extinction of snow leopards, white lions, tigers, and jaguars. In 2013, for the first time ever, indigenous elders/shamans and scientists partnered to forge radical new conservation methods. Within months, the team helped forge the UN Global Snow Leopard policy, and now aim to carry the work into South Africa, home of the most endangered cat-the white lions.
Habitat destruction, poaching, hunting and destruction of native cultural values have brought the big cats to the brink of extinction. Without these culturally central, sacred apex animals, entire ecosystems and indigenous ways of life will die. Big cat shamans are few and live in isolated, impoverished and often dangerous situations. Conservation models rely on narrow scientific disciplines unable to address the complexity of species' extinction and are failing to protect the big cats.
No one knows how to link the two ways of knowing with integrity. We do-we have 25 years of experience doing exactly this, but need support in gathering elders to bring their knowledge forward. It's vital that surviving indigenous elders have the opportunity to meet supportive scientists and other experienced tribal elders while enough are alive to share their knowledge. Currently, less than 2% of foundation giving goes towards indigenous issues; none is earmarked for indigenous/Western ptnrships
Our goal is to save the apex cats from extinction, and ultimately, to save the earth's ecosystems. By creating the first global alliance of this kind and bridging Western science and earth-based knowledge with integrity, we believe that new, radical methods of conservation will be developed, which can eventually be applied to conservation of other species. We need to continue the momentum of this critically important conservation work, building on the success of the meetings in Kyrgyzstan.