Protected areas (PAs) are widely regarded as a crucial component of biodiversity conservation and have been shown to harbor higher levels of biodiversity than areas that are unprotected (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005, Gaston et al. 2008). Protected areas are defined by IUCN as: “A clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values (Dudley 2008). IUCN has also been developed a set of categories for PAs, based on their management objectives (see box below).
IUCN protected area management categories and governance types (Dudley 2008).
1a Strict nature reserve: Strictly protected areas set aside for biodiversity and also possibly geological/ geomorphological features, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure protection of the conservation values.
1b Wilderness area: Usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence, without permanent or significant human habitation, protected and managed to preserve their natural condition.
II National park: Large natural or near-natural areas protecting large-scale ecological processes with characteristic species and ecosystems, which also have environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.
III Natural monument or feature: Areas set aside to protect a specific natural monument, which can be a landform, sea mount, marine cavern, geological feature such as a cave, or a living feature such as an ancient grove.
IV Habitat/species management area: Areas to protect particular species or habitats, where management reflects this priority. Many will need regular, active interventions to meet the needs of particular species or habitats, but this is not a requirement of the category.
V Protected landscape or seascape: Where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced a distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values.
VI Protected areas with sustainable use of natural resources: Areas which conserve ecosystems, together with associated cultural values and traditional natural resource management systems. Generally large, mainly in a natural condition, with a proportion under sustainable natural resource management and where low-level non-industrial natural resource use compatible with nature conservation is seen as one of the main aims.
In practice the legal protection given to individual sites and controls on human activities may not be fully enforced and many PAs within Snow Leopard range suffer from a severe lack of resources – human and financial – so legal protection does always not imply effective protection on the ground. PAs also vary greatly in size and only the largest ones can harbor populations of Snow Leopards and their prey that are viable over the long-term. Nevertheless, protected areas play an essential role in conservation of Snow Leopards and their prey. Outside official networks of legally designated PAs, other types of site are relevant to Snow Leopard conservation, including community-managed areas, conservancies and hunting concessions. The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA; www.protectedplanet.net) records all officially designated PAs as reported by national governments, together with their IUCN category, if this has been assigned. A number of PAs important for Snow Leopards were mentioned in the country accounts in Chapter 2. A full list of all PAs listed on WDPA that are known to harbor Snow Leopards, as well as other sites, such as community reserves and community managed areas is given in Appendix 3. Site names and details follow the official designations on WDPA in most cases.
Dudley, N. (Ed.) (2008). Guidelines for applying IUCN Protected Area Categories. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN
Gaston, K.J., Jackson, S.F., Cantύ-Salazar, L. and Cruz-Piñόn, G. (2008) The ecological performance of protected areas. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 39: 93–113.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: Island Press.