Hey, friends! Welcome back to Rewildology, the show all about conservation, travel, and rewilding the planet. I’m your host, Brooke Mitchell-Norman, conservation biologist and adventure traveler.
If you had to choose your favorite mammalian predator, what would it be? If you asked me this question when I was younger, without hesitation I would have said lions. For as many hours as my sisters would let me, I’d watch nature documentaries from all across the world. My small, rural town seemed so boring in comparison to the great Serengeti, Maasai Mara, and I’d daydream of the day I’d finally see a lion in the wild.
Then, fast forward several years, and out of nowhere, probably the most beautiful cat leaped onto the world stage – the snow leopard. Since the moment I saw a snow leopard for the first time, I’ve wanted to learn more about them. But, these well-adapted cats happen to reside in one of the harshest environments on the globe – the Himalayas. How do we conserve an apex predator that’s ridiculously elusive, solitary, and blends in perfectly with its mountain home?
That is where today’s guest, Rinzin Lama, steps in. Rinzin grew up in Humla, a remote and isolated mountain village in Western Nepal. He spent his childhood playing in nature with friends and skipping class as much as possible. When the Royal Massacre of 2001 sparked the Nepalese civil war, Rinzin’s parents decided to pack up and leave their tribal home for the capital city, Kathmandu. It was Rinzin’s first time in a city and he had a lot to learn. But, he dedicated himself to his studies, and with a lot of twists and turns, found his passion for wildlife biology and dedicated his career to conserving the elusive snow leopard.
Rinzin was recently selected as a Rolex Laureate, which will help fund his work with local communities and mountain herders to create solutions for the ever-growing human-snow leopard conflict.
Alrighty, everyone. Here is my conversation with Rinzin.
Key Takeaways & Highlights
🏔️ Rinzin’s childhood story of growing up in a tribal community in remote Western Nepal
🏔️ What it was like for Rinzin to leave his village and move to Kathmandu after the Royal Massacre
🏔️ How Rinzin discovered his passion for wildlife conservation
🏔️ Rinzin’s journey to becoming a snow leopard biologist and his struggles along the way
🏔️ The tools Rinzin’s team is employing to study different human-snow leopard conflict
🏔️ How he landed a large and prestigious grant from Rolex
🏔️ How anyone abroad help conserve snow leopards
Links & Resources
Rolex Laureate Award: https://www.rolex.org/rolex-awards/environment/rinzin-phunjok-lama
Third Pole Conservancy: https://www.thirdpoleconservancy.org/
You can reach Rinzin by messaging him on Instagram (link above).
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