The fifth grade was lucky to have a special visitor one month ago on Monday : Tanya Rosen, who is the mother of one of my classmates, Bianca. Ms. Rosen works in Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and every eight weeks she resides in Montana.
Ms. Rosen works for Panthera, a conservation group devoted to saving rare big cats. Such as, snow leopards, which I am focused on.
Panthera is partnered with many famous names, such as, Puma, Patagonia, National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, the American Museum of Natural History and a few more.
We learned some very important information about the residents in Tajikistan, where Ms. Rosen works. The winters are cold and bitter, an average temperature is negative 50 degrees fahrenheit! In the summer, the people have to look for good grazing grounds for their livestock. They are also very poor, so they normally just eat rice, potatoes and homemade bread.
The snow leopards sometimes have an afternoon snack of sheep or goat (which people care for), but that’s where the trouble begins. The farmers become so enraged because of this, so they use special traps to grab one leopard’s leg, kill them, eat them and keep their skin. Snow leopard skin is very precious because it is a sign of wealth and importance, therefore the locals sell it.
Snow leopards also get in trouble by climbing on top of corrals and attacking the animals. The corrals normally have small slits in the ceilings, allowing the leopards to sneak in. Panthera prevents this by adding mesh wire to the ceilings and therefore, there will not be anymore holes or dead snow leopards.
Another major issue is poaching. Poachers come in and shoot at the poor leopards. Again, Panthera found a way to easily and quickly solve this problem. They use special camera traps which have a flash that humans can’t see, but snow leopards can see. If there is a poacher, Panthera sends the photos to the local authorities. How do they find the snow leopards, you may ask? Panthera normally puts the cameras on the leopard’s favorite trails and each leopard ALWAYS follows the same trail. We also learned something very funny while Ms. Rosen was telling us about this. There are some pictures of bears and snow leopards taking selfies, and sometimes, there are pictures of foxes trying to make the cameras fall down!
Each snow leopard has different spots, so if in a picture there is a leopard sitting, by looking at their spots, Panthera will automatically know how identify that one.
Another cool thing we were told was how some snow leopards are obsessed with a certain perfume or scent. Sometimes, their favorite perfume is sprayed on a rock and the camera traps will catch them cuddling the rocks. So cute!
We, fifth graders were wondering if snow leopards are dangerous. Ms. Rosen answered in a second, “Snow leopards aren’t dangerous AT ALL! Sometimes, they are kind of clueless. If a farmer caught it and was in the process of being taken away, it would have no idea what to do or how to react, so it’s devastating to watch. But you can’t just go up to one, hug it and give it a pat on the head. Then it would get frightened, but it won’t ATTACK you.”
Two of my classmates, Bianca Rosen and Abigail Campoverde, are working on a project called “The Toothbrush Project”. The purpose for this project is that many of the locals in small villages don’t have toothbrushes and toothpaste. Apparently, most of the Tajiks get sweets or little treats on a regular basis and due to not brushing their teeth they get cavities and rotten teeth, so in their early teens, most of the kids don’t have any teeth. So, when the Rosens go to Tajikistan over the summer, they are going to bring toothbrushes and toothpaste with them so there aren’t any more toothless people. I hope to learn more about the results of this project next year!