Commemorating International Snow Leopard Day on October 23, Young Pandas Bhutan art exhibition featuring 50 paintings, photographs, and drawings opened at the Royal Textile Academy (RTA).

To mark the day, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) collaborated with Voluntary Artists’ Studio Thimphu (VAST) Bhutan to create a life-sized snow leopard origami collage.

Students of 10 schools contributed the snow leopard origami for the event.

A press release from WWF stated that the origami crane inspired the project, which was the symbol of hope and healing during challenging times. “Similarly, this project hopes to transform the origami snow leopard as a symbol of optimism for the conservation of the beautiful cat species.”

Project was also to raise awareness about snow leopard conservation among young Bhutanese through a fun and engaging art project.

The art exhibition will end on October 26.

WWF-US vice president, Roberto Troya, said that today the population of the snow leopard in the world stands between 4,000 and 6,000. He added that the number is generally decreasing due to loss of habitat, climate change, human-wildlife conflict and poaching.

A nation-wide survey conducted between 2014 and 2016 shows that Bhutan has 96 snow leopards today. Snow leopards are listed as a totally protected species in Schedule I of the Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan 1995.

Senior forestry officer at Nature Conservation Division, Tshering Zam, said that the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2017 imposes a penalty of Nu 1 million for killing a snow leopard and Nu 300,000 for illegal possession of snow leopard skin or bones.

In addition to the policies and activities in place to protect snow leopard in the country, Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) is developing a five-year action plan.

The press release from WWF stated that on the first World Forum on the conservation of the snow leopard and its ecosystems held in Bishkek in 2013, two commitments were made – Bishkek declaration: a commitment of governments of 12 Asian countries (including Bhutan) towards conserving snow leopards and the fragile mountain ecosystem they inhabit and an unprecedented joint effort to save this unique animal in the form of The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme, (GSLEP).

Under this programme, snow leopard range countries have committed to securing 20 landscapes across the cat’s range by 2020.

Today the DoFPS has drafted the Climate-Integrated Landscape Conservation Plan for Snow Leopard that will mark a contribution from Bhutan to achieve the global initiative ‘conserve 20 snow leopard landscapes by 2020.’

“Bhutan is one of the countries where we are putting what we call as project for permanence that is Bhutan for life. Bhutan for life represents the desire of our organisation to preserve in this case natural parks for future generations,” Roberto Troya said.

Phurpa Lhamo