The Changing Human-Snow Leopard Relationship in Ladakh

Padma Rigzin


Abstract: The paper traces the socio-economic changes in Ladakh to locate the broader context of the changing human and snow-leopard relationship. Geo-politically determined growth in state investment, increased tourist footfall, growth of wildlife tourism, rural-to-urban migration, and education migration to Indian cities besides Ladakh’s various imaginaries (Ladakh as a harsh frontier and a romanticized tourist destination) have influenced the human relationship with the big cats. The paper argues that the changing human-snow-leopard relationship provides one of the means for young Ladakhis who have spent time outside of Ladakh to reconnect with the region. In other words, the big cat is becoming a handle for new generation to (re)connect with the mountainous region, redefining the Himalayan region itself.


Keywords: Ladakh, changes, snow leopard, imaginary, tourism, relationship



On a chilly late October evening, I was in a bookshop in Leh bazaar. I came across a magazine titled Jungwa, which means ‘nature’ in Ladakhi. There was a fox on the cover. It was published by Wildlife Conservation and Birds Club of Ladakh (WCBCL), and contained articles on wildlife. I shelled out Rs 250 for the magazine without giving a second thought, as my research concerns the human-snow leopard relationship. Later at home, I went through a two-page article in the magazine, written by Dorjey Daya, which detailed his experience of spotting a snow leopard and her cubs in Phyang, a village 19 km west of Leh. I was transfixed to find the following quote in the article: “Then to my utter surprise, we spotted two cubs that were about four months old walking some 15 m to 20 m ahead of us. As I watched two toddlers, I felt tears of unmitigated joy streaming down my cheeks. The joy was evident in everyone’s face including Ms Avny Lavasa [the then-District Magistrate]. The joy of seeing the cubs from such close quarters remains the best moment of my life” (Daya 43).

Why did Daya experience such joy in seeing the cats? How is his joy related to the understandings of Ladakh(s)? Is the pleasure connected to an attempt to make sense of Ladakh by an ‘educated native’? I use the term ‘educated natives’ to designate the Ladakhis who have had exposure to education, especially on the Indian mainland[i]. How do the economic benefits of growing snow leopard tourism mediate the relationship with snow leopards? Is the changing human-snow leopard relationship providing one way for Ladakhis who has spent some time outside of Ladakh to redefine their relationship with Ladakh? 

In terms of the organisation of this paper, the first section elucidates my research methods. The second section traces the social and economic changes happening in contemporary Ladakh. The geopolitical location determines and increases the presence of the military, the growth of civil and military infrastructure, army-related employment opportunities, and changes in agricultural patterns. The growth of tourism, an uptake in snow leopard tourism, the trend of rural-to-urban migration and migration to Indian cities for higher education by young Ladakhis are other essential factors in contemporary Ladakh. In the third section, I trace four overlapping beliefs about Ladakh. In academic and popular imaginations, Ladakh is considered a frontier, harsh, romantic and a ‘fantastical’ tourist destination. In the fourth section, the paper traces the changing human snow-leopard relationship and on the emergence of snow leopard conservation and tourism. The fifth section focuses on the narratives of some young Ladakhis who have spent time outside Ladakh. It focuses on how the attitude of young Ladakhis towards the big cats is mediated by the larger practices of snow leopard tourism and the experience of spending some years away from Ladakh. In the concluding part, I try to show that the economic benefits from snow leopard tourism growth are working alongside the romanticised reimagination of Ladakh to positively change the human-snow leopard relationship, which, in turn, is offering new ways of relating with Ladakh.


Research Method

This paper is part of a social anthropological PhD project on the relationship between snow leopards and humans in Ladakh. The ethnographic approach is the basis of this paper’s research method. Participant observation is one of the main pillars of the ethnographic approach (Shah). Being an established method in social anthropology/sociology, participant observation is used for studying the social processes of Ladakhis associated with snow leopard tourism to make sense of contemporary Ladakh. This paper emerges from the first part of my fieldwork, from September 2022 to January 2023. As such, I participated in wildlife-related events like photo exhibitions and a wildlife guide training course to trace and monitor how young Ladakhis make sense of contemporary Ladakh through the snow leopards. I observed two photo exhibitions. One was a wildlife exhibition of private collections of Tashi Chotak Lonchey, the proprietor of Hidden Northern Adventures. The second was by Wildlife Conservation and Birds Club of Ladakh during the autumn of 2022. I attended a one-week-long wildlife guide training programme in a luxury tourist hosting camp in Hemis National Park. I also participated in a week-long annual learning program named Students for Students, which Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trusts (SLC-IT), a conservation NGO based in Leh, organises for undergraduate and graduate levels students. The learning program includes class-based learning at SLC-IT and a field visit component. Moreover, I observed snow leopard tourism activities in Uley, Hemisshukpachan, and Sasposte villages in the Sham region. The Sham region is located in the lower Indus basin in the western part of the Leh district. Hemisshukpachan and Uley share a single sarpanch, the political head, and Goba, the traditional head. Uley has become one of the hubs of snow leopard tourism in Ladakh. Saspotse is a village located east of Uley. All three villages are located 70 to 80 km west of Leh town. 

I spoke to, spent time with, and observed the activities of several tourists and, more importantly, Ladakhis associated with snow leopard tourism. The participant observation was to understand the social setting where the snow leopard repeatedly came up in conversations. It also showed the participants’ views, beliefs and behaviour. I maintained field notes of observation and experiences. Moreover, I took over 60 interviews in this part of the fieldwork. Specifically, I took 15 in-depth interviews of Ladakhis who have spent time outside of Ladakh in their educational journey. The time spent in Indian cities varies from occasional visits, to appearances for particular examinations, to stays longer than 10 years. In addition, several formal and informal group discussions were also taken. The interviews and discussion aimed to understand how Ladakhi youth saw their relatedness with snow leopards and trace what sense of home they were creating. Most of the interviews were taken in Ladakhi. The researcher translated the interviews into English and transcribed them. Some conversations, like public talks during training programs, were in English. From these methods, I move towards situating Ladakh in the next section.


The Socio-Economic Changes in Ladakh

Ladakh is situated at the western edge of the Trans-Himalaya. The Trans-Himalaya is a massive expanse of cold and arid land covering the Tibetan Plateau and its peripheral mountains. The present form of the landscape was formed after the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates and the resultant emergence of the Himalayas (Namgail). With temperatures ranging from 30°C to -40°C and altitudes from 2700m to 7000m, Ladakh is one of India’s sparsely human-populated regions (Behera and Vaswan). The Himalayas stop the rain-bearing southwest monsoon from reaching Ladakh. As such, there is minimal precipitation in the region, only 20 mm annually (Behera and Vaswan). Over millions of years, the low precipitation, omnipresent mountains, and high altitude produced an ‘uncommon’ landscape. The seemingly dry mountainous region is different even from its neighbouring Himalayan landscape. This dry landscape is home to predators like snow leopards (Panthera uncia) and Tibetan wolves (Canis lupus). Their primary mammalian herbivorous preys are eight wild ungulates. These include Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata), Ladakh urial (Ovis vignei vignei), and Asiatic ibex (Capra ibex siberica)[ii] (Namgail). Administratively, Ladakh, consisting of two districts (Leh and Kargil), was carved out of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as a Union Territory (UT) on October 31, 2019. Its human population is 274,289 (Chandramouli)[iii]. Even before making Ladakh a UT, the region witnessed significant socio-economic changes.

Geopolitical context is a vital factor in the socio-economic changes in Ladakh. Ladakh is located in northern India, which straddles China and Pakistan, making it one of India’s crucial geopolitically situated regions. From 1948, India fought four wars with Pakistan (in 1948, 1965, 1972, and 1999) and one war with China (in 1962). Troops are stationed in Ladakh, and transportation and communication links were actively improved due to volatile borders (Aggarwal). Sincethe 1999 war, the Indian military has made extensive and concerted efforts to increase the armed forces’ scope, size and preparedness. The military established additional forward posts and bases, formed a new army brigade near border villages, and opened new headquarters, named the 14 Corps, in Leh. Furthermore, the military increased reliance on local people as spies and coolies, took huge lands for military bases and weapon training, and made Ladakh Scouts an army regiment, which made the recruitment process appealing to locals (Bhan). Supplying vegetables to the army became an important livelihood for locals (Stobdan et al.).

The geopolitical situation also led to a focus on infrastructure from the government, especially road networks. “Central and State investment in the economic development of Ladakh mostly followed wars or threats of civil insurgency,” (Aggarwal 39-40). The geopolitical situation and the changing priorities of the national government led to the rapid development of Ladakh’s road scape (Demenge, The Political Ecology of Road Construction in Ladakh). As more developmental funds came in, the politics over their allocation became more prominent (van Beek, Bhan). Moreover, the newly curved union territory of Ladakh has upped the infrastructural development goals. “Road infrastructure is one of the most crucial public assets, as it leads to economic and social development, and helps fight poverty by providing access to remote areas among others. Keeping these objectives in mind the UT administration is constructing major road projects in the border areas as well as roads and tunnels for improving internal connectivity,” a press release of the UT administration mentions (UT Ladakh). 

Another main driver of the changes in Ladakh is the tourism sector. Although there are no recent statistics, tourism comprises 50 per cent of the region’s GDP (Rajashekariah and Chandan). The number of incoming tourists have risen exponentially[iv] . In 2003, the arrival number stood at 28,400, which increased to 78,100 in 2010. Mainly due to a rapid increase in domestic tourists, the numbers reached 323,590 in 2018. This number is more than the entire population of Ladakh (Müller et al.). Moreover, the newly formed UT administration is pushing to boost tourism in the region. The growth of tourism has spurred rapid tourism-related infrastructure, such as hotels, restaurants and transportation providers. A Tourism Vision for Ladakh, UT administration’s policy document, elucidates that there are 291 hotels and 807 guest houses in Leh[v] (UT Ladakh). The growth in tourist arrival and infrastructure indicates new forms of employment and livelihood for Ladakhis, such as being tour operators, hoteliers, guest house owners, cooks, helpers, pony men, bike renters, guides, and more. Different kinds of tourists seek different kinds of tourism in Ladakh. Many come for adventure, others for wellness, and some are interested in Buddhism. There is also a slowly increasing eco-tourism around wildlife.


Fig 1. Source: A Tourism Vision for Ladakh


Another significant socio-economic change with a wide-ranging effect on Ladakh is rural-to-urban migration. From 1981 to 2001, Leh Town’s population has more than doubled. Leh is witnessing a rapid spatial expansion of dwelling settlements on abandoned agricultural and barren land, densification of built-up regions, land use pattern changes, and declining water supply. Urban growth is fuelled by the construction of administrative and transportation infrastructure, a thriving tourism industry, the spread of urban habits, and the geopolitical significance of the area (Dame et al.; Nüsser et al.; Müller et al.) 

People are rapidly moving out of Ladakh’s nomadic regions (Dollfus; Goodall). “Over the past 4 decades, approximately one-quarter of the original population of Rupshu-Kharnak [nomadic pastoralist habitations in eastern Ladakh] has settled in and around Leh,” (Goodall 223). Schooling is one of the primary reasons for migration. Due to the difference in quality between government and private schools, more and more parents choose to put their children in private schools. Moreover, with employment in the armed forces in the 1960s, Ladakhi parents could spend money on their children’s education (Williams-Oerberg). In 2011, 11,764 students were enrolled in private schools, while only 8641 were in government schools in the Leh district. As most private schools are located in district headquarters, wards from remote regions of Ladakh leave their villages to attend private schools (Williams-Oerberg). The Department of School Education’s website currently shows that 16,221 students are enrolled in private schools in Leh, while 8,394 are in government schools[vi]. There are residential government-run schools like the Nomadic Residential High School at Puga, in east Ladakh, and private schools in faraway towns and villages like Khalsti, Alchi, Thiksay, and Disket.

Leaving villages for Leh is one trend. Young Ladakhis migrating to Indian cities for higher education is another. The preferred destinations are Jammu, Delhi, Dehradun, Chandigarh and Bangalore. Indeed, a class angle exists as people with more financial resources can send their wards to Indian cities outside of Ladakh (Gergan and Smith). The number of students pursuing higher education in cities is growing every year. Williams-Oerberg estimates the number in the last decade at 12,500 [vii] (Williams-Oerberg). 

Till now, I have outlined the broader changes happening in Ladakh. In order to trace how the changing human-snow-leopard relationship is redefining relatedness with Ladakh, locating the broader transformation happening at the regional scale is essential. In the following section, I discuss the changes in the imaginaries of Ladakh. The imaginaries of a region are important because these imaginaries shape attitudes towards, and perceptions of, the region. 


Different Imaginations of Ladakh

Ladakh was an independent kingdom until the 1830s, when the Dogras of Jammu colonised Ladakh for the Punjab rulers. When Punjab fell to the British Indian Empire, Kashmir and Ladakh were sold to Gulab Singh, the Dogra general, as a reward for siding with the British[viii]. As such, Ladakh became a part of the Jammu and Kashmir princely state, which was under the suzerainty of the British Indian Empire. During the political turmoil, Ladakh and other small kingdoms located north of Kashmir valley, like Hunza, Skardu, and Kaplu, were the location of acute geopolitical competition between the British and the Russian Empire (Hussain). The competition, known as the “Great Game,” was for the diplomatic and political control of the Himalayas and Central Asia (Taylor). During the second half of the century, the rivalry was at its peak, and the Britishers were expecting an imminent Russian attack from the mountain passes (Hussain). After British rule ended in India, the region was co-opted into the Indian Union as a district of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state in 1948[ix]. However, owing to the region’s proximity to Baltistan (Pakistan) and Tibet and Xinjiang (China), the region is geopolitically important and sensitive[x], as mentioned above. 

Based on this geopolitical context, we come to a body of literature that creates particular imagery of the region as a frontier. India, China, and Pakistan share borders, and each has a different idea of what should be considered its territory. Due to this geopolitical angle, the Indian state formation is strongly influenced by military considerations, making state-making in Ladakh an essential subject of study for scholars[xi]. As such, geopolitical factors influenced Jonathan Demenge’s PhD thesis on the politics of state road construction (Demenge, The Political Ecology of Road Construction in Ladakh; Demenge, “Development Theory, Regional Politics and the Unfolding of the ‘Roadscape’in Ladakh, North India”). In a different vein, Vogel and Field (2020) concentrated on tourism and trade as a state-making enterprise in Ladakh[xii] (Vogel and Field). Anthropologist Karine Gagné notes how the military production of the state is affecting the dynamics of the rural agricultural Ladakh due to out-migration from rural regions in her book Caring for Glaciers: Land, Animals, and Humanity in the Himalayas[xiii] (Gagné). Moreover, the works of many scholars of Ladakh studies emphasise Ladakh’s rich political, economic, historical, and cultural ties with neighbouring regions like Tibet, Baltistan, and Xinjiang (Rizvi; Sheikh; Ahmed; Dollfus). However, the strategic rivalry between India, China, and Pakistan overshadows the historical socioeconomic ties among the regions. “[F]aced with the extent of the territory occupied by China, India reacted and sent its combat forces along the frontier. Numerous military camps were established around Leh and at other strategic sites. In the meantime, the route linking the capital of Kashmir to that of Ladakh was constructed to facilitate the movement of supplies” (Dollfus 47, “The History of Muslims in Central Ladakh”).

So, in the context of the 19th century, Great Games and the post-integration of Ladakh into the Indian union, the working of the Indian state according to geopolitical consideration points to the imagery of Ladakh as the frontier region and the implications of this imagery. Scholars have explored the geopolitical aspect of Ladakh, emphasising geostrategic significance and implication of social and cultural life brought about by the complex relationship between China, Pakistan,and India. These works highlight the contemporary and historical factors that have shaped Ladakh’s image as a frontier region. Most of the work dwells on the implication of cross-cultural current and geopolitical tinkering in the region. By focusing on geopolitical dynamics, these scholars formulate a better understanding of the complex dynamics at play in understanding Ladakh’s social and cultural life. But for this article, I want to highlight that bringing in the geopolitical lens as an implicit framework for understanding the socio-cultural aspect of the region foregrounds Ladakh as a frontier region. Put otherwise, in literature, Ladakh emerges as a place where nations indulge in geopolitical games.

In the above discussion, I have tried to show that the imagery of Ladakh as a frontier region results from colonial history and sensitive unresolved border issues with China and Pakistan. We now turn to another collection of literature where Ladakh is seen as a cold, desolate, and scarcely habitable desert. The accounts of British explorers from the colonial era and those of bureaucrats and army commanders from after independence contain examples of this imagination. “Descriptions of Ladakh as a harsh, dangerous, and unexplored hinterland pervade British colonial accounts as well as those of the various European missionaries who travelled to Ladakh” (Gagné 77). Similar imagery can be seen in more recent scholarly publications. Consider this statement about Ladakh: “This arid and somewhat inhospitable land has, however, been frequented since the fifth century B .C . by trans-Himalayan caravan traffic that stimulated in the ninth century AD the establishment of permanent inns to take in and to give fresh supplies to travellers and their animals” (Michaud 608; my emphasis). Coming to more popular and recent journalist writing, a journalist writes the attraction of Ladakh for biker tourists is in “its hundreds of kilometres long arid, largely unoccupied terrain at heights averaging 12-14000 feet above sea level….” (Chakravarty, par. 7; my emphasis). “It is a test of human will,” Chakravarty quotes an avid motorcyclist. “Flat-roofed, white-washed homes rise above the bright green fields along the river, oases in this cold desert. Crumbling old monasteries perched on rocky crags command the barren, empty vistas,” writes another journalist in Outlook Traveller (Jabbar, par. 2; my emphasis). Terms like “unoccupied terrain,” “barren, empty vistas,” “harsh, dangerous, and unexplored hinterland,” and “somewhat inhospitable” are used to describe Ladakh. 

I have pointed out the imagination of Ladakh as a frontier and a harsh region. We now go on to a different perception of Ladakh that is present in the early academic publications published from 1974 onwards. This is the image of Ladakh as a romanticised place. Due to the sensitive borders, Ladakh was off-limits to tourists and scholars from 1948 to 1974. Since 1974, it has been open to travellers, and scholarship on Ladakh has emerged. In the scholarship that emerged post-opening to tourists and scholars, Ladakh was portrayed in academic writings as a beautiful Tibetan refuge, an exotic Shangri-La. While writing about Ladakh, Leh was the main subject[xiv]. The popularity of Buddhism and Tibet in the west is one factor. Therefore, investigations were conducted on and of Buddhist areas of Ladakh that showed a propensity towards Tibet (Demenge et al.). Ladakh was used in this generation of scholarly research as a stand-in for Tibet, which was inaccessible to Western scholars (Michaud), earning Ladakh the moniker “Little Tibet” in the process[xv]. Then there was Helena Norberg-Hodge’s popular book Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh for a Globalising World, first published in the 1990s (Norberg-Hodge). In the book, Norberg-Hodge, a post-developmental practitioner, shows how Ladakhis, despite low economic luxury, have been living happily in harmony with each other and with nature.

NGOs later picked up this romanticised understanding of Ladakh. “From 1974, when Ladakh was reopened to foreigners, tourists began visiting the area along with university researchers, who together helped make it a world observation site… They envisaged Ladakh as an area naturally preserved by its inhabitants and therefore suitable for the implementation of innovative projects [by NGOs] making transition possible from a traditional society to an ecologically responsible one” (Goeury 113). Western people’s interest in a particular form of Buddhism also spurred the romanticised idea of larger ethnographic Tibetan cultures, which includes Ladakh (Mills). Bollywood films like Dil Se and, more recently and forcefully, 3 Idiots play an essential role in creating this image (Aggarwal; Angmo and Dolma). Indeed, the media characterisation of Ladakh also played an important role. Nevertheless, the point that I want to highlight is that Ladakh is imagined as a romanticised place, naturally sustained and protected by its inhabitants who have been living in sync with nature and its elements. This imagination of Ladakh, it seems, provides the ‘educated natives’ a new script to reconnect with the region and its culture. 

The romanticised Ladakh is closely related to its fourth imagery as a ‘fantastical’ tourist destination. Here Ladakh becomes alluring and attractive. I requote Chakravarty, one of the journalists quoted above: “The allure of a Ladakh motorcycle ride lies in its hundreds of kilometres long arid, largely unoccupied terrain at heights averaging 12-14,000 feet above sea level- something that cannot be experienced anywhere else on the planet. From the border with China to the Siachen glacier in Nubra Valley to the magnificent Pangong Lake- the region offers a visual spectacle unlike others” (Chakravarty, par. 7; my emphasis). Thomas Cook, a famous tour operator, mentions on their website, “Come summer or winter, Ladakh tourism is a magnet all year round. Give heed to its untouched beauty and fulfil your call to the pristine land with your visit to these majestic heights” (“Ladakh Tourism”, par. 1; my emphasis). It further adds, “Adrenaline junkies can explore corners of the hitherto unexplored land that calls out to thrill-seeker and amateur explorers” (“Ladakh Tourism”, par. 5; my emphasis). A similar kind of imagination of Ladakh is reflected in the writings of even ‘native’ scholars. For example, discussing film-induced tourism, Angmo and Dolma remark: “since the region possesses a massive wealth of historical monasteries, palaces along with high peaks and high valleys apt for trekking, mountaineering, rafting and other related activities” (Angmo and Dolma 301; my emphasis). Similarly, a different local scholar described Ladakh as “one of the most preserved Himalayan Buddhist cultures” (Lundup 1; my emphasis). So, in the imagination influenced by tourism, Ladakh “offers a visual spectacle unlike others” and is “a magnet” for visitors. 


The Snow Leopard and the Emergence of Snow Leopard Tourism

In the previous section, I concentrated on four overlapping imageries of Ladakh: Ladakh as a frontier, a harsh environment, a romanticised place, and a ‘fantastical’ tourist destination. These images are mediated by the intersection of colonialism, (geo)politics, the tourism industry, and academic and popular writings. The changing human-snow leopard relationship is a part of the imaginations of Ladakh and the broader socio-economic changes. 

Before we go further, let me introduce the big cat. Snow leopards, or shan in Ladakhi, are big cats living in the cold, rugged, and arid topography of the higher reaches of the Greater Himalayas and the Indian trans-Himalayan (Ladakh and Spiti). It is also found in Karakorum, the Tibetan Plateau, Central Asian countries, and Mongolia. Also known as Panthera uncia, shan, taxonomically, it is in the order Carnivora. The family in which cats, including shan, are taxonomically located is called Felidae and its family members are called Felids. The shan belong to the genus Panthera (commonly called big cats), which contains lions (Panthera leo), lseopard (Panthera pardus), jaguars (Panthera onca) and tigers (Panthera tigris). Shan’s closest relative is the tiger; the two commenced differentiating from each other 2.7-3.7 million years ago. The snow leopard weighs between 20 to 50 kg. It has a distinctively long tail which can be almost equal to its body length (Macdonald et al.). There are nearly 500 snow leopards in Ladakh, and they have the highest level of protection under the wildlife protection act of 1972 (Vannelli et al.).

The biology of the snow leopard is one way of knowing the cat. Tracing the transforming human-snow leopard relationship is another way. In the following discussion, the paper focuses on the changing relationship between humans and snow leopards[xvi].  

Ladakhis have had a complex relationship with wildlife, including the snow leopards. Natives regularly hunted snow leopard prey such as ibexes. Hunting has been a distinctive and largely supplemental aspect of these economies in all highland steppe regions of the Tibetan plateau at 32 degrees north, where pastoralist economies are found. As long as there has been human habitation on the Tibetan plateau, Tibetans have engaged in hunting[xvii] (Huber). This also is true of Ladakh, a region with cultural and geological connections with Tibet. In the Sham region [xviii]of Ladakh, people in their late 70’s and early 80s remember going hunting in the mountains. They narrate how they accompanied adults to the mountains, where they would stalk ibexes for days. They used to spend the nights in caves where narrating the Kesar saga[xix] was widespread. The meat was consumed for subsistence[xx]. Notably, hunting was mostly associated with subsistence for the natives, although there are also records of animal parts being traded across the Silk Route (Bhatia et al.)[xxi]

In the sections above, I have tried to indicate that native Ladakhis had a hostile relationship with the prey of snow leopards. However, that hostile relationship was influenced by the need to survive. Now we come to Ladakhis’ direct relationship with snow leopards. The relationship between the natives with the big cat was also antagonistic. The primary means of livelihood of the people were farming and livestock rearing. Even now, in many remote villages this is the case. Livestock like sheep provided the wool that was converted into the fabric to make the goncha, the traditional attire of the Ladakhis. Goat wool was used to make chali, a quilt. Cows and dzomo (the female cross of cow and Yak) provided milk. Dzo (the male cross of cow and Yak), donkeys, and horses were means of transportation. All the domestic animals combined provided manure for the farmlands. To put it otherwise, people in Ladakh and similar geographical regions, like Tibet and Baltistan, were heavily dependent on livestock rearing. “Turo yod na, chukpo in” or “a family with many domestic animals is considered rich” (my trans.) was a common saying in Ladakh. Works of conservationists show that livestock was preyed on by the big cat. In this context, the natives dependent on livestock rearing had a hostile relationship with the snow leopards as they indulged in retaliatory killings (Jackson and Wangchuk). 

However, one must be aware that the coexistence between humans and wildlife is always complex. The nature of relationship can range from expressed intolerance (bad attitudes and behaviors towards wildlife) to stewardship (positive attitudes and behaviors towards wildlife). Latent intolerance, a form of negative intolerance that does not manifest in outright violence, exists between the two extremes (Bhatia). As such, the situation on the ground in Ladakh was complex. Rather than absolute antagonism, there was a hate-love relationship with predators, including snow leopards[xxii] (Bhatia et al.). Nevertheless, the relationship with the snow leopards was broadly antagonistic. 

Up till now, I have emphasized that Ladakhis had a broadly antagonistic relationship with snow leopards. Now, we move to the positive turn regarding this relationship. The positive turn is intimately related to the conservation work of NGOs[xxiii]. One of the central figures in snow leopard conservation in Ladakh is biologist Rodney Jackson. In 1976, he travelled to the Himalayas to observe snow leopards. He eventually founded the Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC), an NGO, with his Ladakhi associate Rinchen Wangchuk. SLC worked with local communities to develop conservation and tourism programs. As indicated, the local population had a negative attitude towards snow leopards, which were seen as a threat to livestock, and cases of retaliatory killing of snow leopards were not unknown (Jackson and Wangchuk).

One way to promote the protection of the cat is the promotion of wildlife tourism. SLC engaged in a plan to develop eco-tourism through training specialised local guides, establishing cafés, and promoting village tourism based on homestay accommodations alongside awareness programmes for protecting livestock from snow leopards (Goeury)[xxiv]. The Himalayan homestays programme, started in 2002, is one of the flagship programmes of Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT), as the India-registered part of SLC came to be known. Homestays, located all around Ladakh, allow guests to be immersed in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way, according to SLC-IT. The programme also offers village-based experiences that uphold and share traditional ways of living. “Since 2002, SLC-IT has trained over 130 families to offer homestays across Ladakh, and our initiative has proven to benefit not only local communities, but wildlife in the surrounding environment” (SLC-IT). The idea behind this program was to change local perception of the predators, from seeing them as pests to acknowledging their worth in their habitat. With the uptake of eco-tourism and community participation, a study opines that such eco-tourism around snow leopards is changing the attitude of locals towards wildlife, especially snow leopards in Ladakh (Vannelli et al.). However, in many parts of Ladakh, wildlife faces increasing threats related to human demand for natural resources (Fox et al.; Bhatnagar et al.).

Rinchen Wangchuk, who played an essential role in promoting eco-tourism, tragically passed away a decade ago. He was the founder and director of SLC-IT. Some senior employees, like Jigmet Dadul, program manager of SLC-IT, have been part of the organisation since Rinchen Wangchuk’s time.  In the winter months, Jigmet organises snow leopard tours through his tour operating company, Snow Leopard Quest. One of the board of trustees of the conservation organisation is David Sonam. Sonam was a close acquaintance of Wangchuk. Like Dadul, Sonam is one of the partners running one of the first snow leopard tourist-dedicated lodges called the Snow Leopard Lodge (SLL). It is a premium small hotel initially started in Uley, a village with only six households, located 80 km west of Leh. 

Dadul and Sonam are seniors in the wildlife tourism scene. They are directly connected with the people associated with starting SLC-IT. Beyond SLC-IT, as tourism grew and as more Ladakhis entered the tourism sector,more wildlife-interested tourists began to come  and the number of agencies has increased. In late 2022, there was an attempt to organise wildlife tour operators. As such, a Wildlife Tour Operator Association (WTOA) was formed, though it has et to be officially registered. It consisted of approximately 20 tour operators, as one member told me. However, many tour operators might have yet to join the WTOA,so the number of wildlife tour operators might pass 20.

I have been unable to ascertain the number of inbound snow leopard tourists. However, it seems that there are substantial numbers. For instance, in February 2023, the peak of snow leopard tourism, a snow leopard with a killed prey was spotted in Phyang, a village near Leh. The news spread through social media all over. The next day when I went there, more than approximately 200 people were buzzing around. Half of them might be tourists, and the other half the wildlife guides, drivers, helpers, etc. In an estimate by a local wildlife photographer, more than 300 people were present at that spot. A month later, news of a mating snow leopards spread on social media in Saspotse, roughly 70 km west of Leh. I counted around 300 people; half of them were tourists. My research interlocutor, the local photographer, again estimated more than 300.

At a sub-regional scale, snow leopard tourism is significant. Here we will gauge its scale by focusing on Uley. There are six households in Uley with a population of 48. Out of six, one house is locked, as all members live in Leh. Three of the six households have built extra buildings, which are leased to snow leopard tour companies. The Snow Leopard Lodge (SLL), associated with David Sonam, has leased two buildings. These are used to host tourists. Another travel company take the spare building of the third household to put up tourists. This one is less busy compared to SLL. The locked house is also rented to the SLL and is used to house trackers and drivers. In other words, four of six households have provided their houses on lease to snow leopard tourism enterprises. Furthermore, the male heads of three households work as snow leopard trackers. Taxis used to ferry tourists from Leh to Uley and back, and to other villages, are Toyota Innova Crystas. This car is considered robust, hardy and reliable. The price of this car is upward of Rs 2,000,000, which is expensive. Uleypa[xxv] owns three Innova Crystas. 

From Saspotse, the neighbouring village, two trackers and two taxis were employed in Uley. In the nearby village of Hemisshukpachan, four trackers and four Innovas taxis are employed in Uley. Three young men from Hemisshukpachan have created demand for three more Innova Crystas, which they will receive in the summer. When the taxis were in short supply in Uley, people with Innova Crystas from the further away villages of Tingmogang, Tia, and Skingdiyang were called. Moreover, the SLL had ten regular employees from Ladakh in the winter of 2022-23. Four were from nearby villages. The other four were from different parts of Ladakh, ranging from Nubra, Changthang, Kargil, and a village near Leh (the manager). The chef was from Uttarakhand and his help was from Himachal Pradesh. 


Fig 2. Source: Google Earth


From establishing homestays a decade ago with the help of SLC-IT, the people of Uley have come a long way. Once hosting tourists in modest homestays, Uleypas now cater to wealthy tourists who live in lodges. Nevertheless, two households maintain their homestays. Moreover, these villages have completely abandoned goat rearing. As such, livestock depredation by snow leopards is a non-issue. The rationale for promoting the eco-wildlife tourism revolving around snow leopards was and is to desist rural Ladakhis from indulging in retaliatory killings. Conservation organisations’ aim of stopping retaliatory killings of snow leopards seems to have been achieved. Once a pest or nuisance, snow leopards have become a livelihood source for many Ladakhis in rural places like Uley. People of these regions are economically benefiting from snow leopard tourism as property owners, homestay organisers, taxis owner cum drivers, trackers, and helpers. For instance, let us consider the earning from taxis. The taxi fare from Leh to Uley and back is Rs 5800. In addition, the per day charge of a taxi is Rs 3700, which includes 8 hours of duty and an 80 km per day drive limit. Usually, each taxi gets hired for an average of five days in Uley with a particular group of tourists, so revenue from one single trip for a taxi in the Uley-Heshuk axis is Rs 24,300 excluding tips from tourists. Cabs have got an average of 5-6 visits to Uley-Heshuk in the winter. In winter, small and quiet Uley buzzes with visitors. Apart from the Ulley-Hesmishukpachan axis, visitors also come to Hemis National Park in the central Leh district[xxvi]. With the uptake of snow leopard tourism, the big cats have become the star of wildlife tourism.


Human-Snow Leopard Relationship and Its Effects on New Understanding of Ladakh(s)


We have looked at the growth of snow leopard tourism and, before that, briefly touched upon Ladakh’s changing socio-economic profile and imaginaries. Within this more extensive background, young Ladakhis migrating to Indian cities seems to be one of the most critical factors concerning the human-snow leopard relationship. In this section, we will focus on the narratives of some Ladakhis to understand their views on snow leopards and Ladakh.  

Nyso Bulu[xxvii], from Uley, is a wildlife photographer in his late 20s. He learned photography from an institute in Delhi. He also undertook an internship in the same city. The company where Bulu was interning in Delhi came to shoot a documentary in Ladakh. Since he was from Ladakh, he was hired as part of the team. Before the photography course, Bulu received his bachelor’s degree from Jammu. After these trajectories in Jammu and Delhi, he said, “it became clear that I could become a wildlife photographer. There is also a chance in filmmaking. Both can go hand in hand. Along with that, the story of snow leopards also came in. Now, I have become aware of the value of snow leopards. I realised that snow leopards are rare species found only in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and other parts of India. A lot of snow leopard tourists started to come to Uley, and my father got involved in hosting them and working as a tracker. The mindset of my father was also changed. My father also started to think that the conservation of snow leopards is essential, and it also generates good income.”

Bulu lives in Uley. Although he might have seen hundreds of snow leopards, he would come huffing and puffing if news of snow leopards spotted reached him. I have seen him go several times without a camera to see the snow leopards. Nevertheless, most of the time, he was with his camera. He often found a place away from the crowd and stayed hour after hour, taking pictures and videos of the snow leopards. He is an early career photographer and does not, as of now, earn directly from selling or exhibiting his photos. Due to his fabulous photography and relatively large Instagram follower base, he contacts guests who want to stay in his family’s homestay. So indirectly, his photography contributes to bringing tourists to their homestay. Moreover, snow leopard tourism in his village increased his interest in wildlife photography, and as pointed out earlier, his family members and villagers increasingly depend on snow leopard tourism as spotters, homestay owners, and lodge owners. These factors contributed to the increasing acknowledgement of the value of snow leopards. 

In addition, time spent outside Ladakh seems to have contributed to seeing snow leopards and Ladakh differently and more positively. In my many informal conservations and five formal interviews, Ladakh regularly came up as one of the rare habitats for big cats. Moreover, Bulu mentioned, “When you return to Ladakh after spending some years in Jammu, our vision changes slightly. Ladakh seems like a nice place. Clouds are markedly visible…..Then I became more curious about Ladakh and things related to Ladakh.” Bulu considers the snow leopard one of the most beautiful animals. He never gets bored of seeing them. After he spent many years outside Ladakh, Ladakh emerged as “a nice place” in his view. The value of ‘beautiful’ Ladakh has even increased for him, as it is also home to ‘beautiful’ snow leopards. In this way, the snow leopard presents ways to redefine the relatedness with Ladakh as beautiful place shared by Ladakhis and the big cats.

For some young Ladakhis, the snow leopards are also figuring as our snow leopards. Fiaz, a wildlife guide in his early 30s, was speaking at the training program for wildlife guides in November 2022. He runs a budding production company and has produced a film on snow leopards. As a responsible wildlife tour operator, Fiaz asserted that he tries to maximise our local people’s benefit. He said there is “no beauty in doing any work” if the benefits are not shared with the community. “I think because then you become too selfish doing anything because at the end of the day, it’s our people, it’s our mountains, it’s our snow leopard, it’s ours.” He added, “So it’s very important for us to, you know, like understand that by saving them [snow leopards], I think we are saving ourselves because if they are gone, sooner or later, we will also be gone. Because they play a huge role which not everybody understands it; but you know we all are educated people, so if we study about it, if we, learn more things about it, I’m sure, you know, like we will know more about them which is very important. After leading, you know, lots of different photographers and filmmakers in the mountains, I realised that you know, we can do a far better job. And we deserve…..” [sic].

Fiaz’s comments exist in a context where premium tourists are increasingly brought by companies not owned by Ladakhis. That is why the context of who shares or takes the economic benefit of snow leopard tourism is vital. However, Fiaz shows a strong interdependence between the snow leopards and the Ladakhi society. On the one hand, he suggests that Ladakhis should educate themselves and protect the snow leopards. On the other hand, by protecting the snow leopard, Ladakhis will be able to protect themselves. So a new form of relatedness with Ladakh is emerging. This relatedness is encoded in knowing about Ladakh’s wildlife and protecting it. Through the snow leopards, being Ladakhi comes embedded with a duty to know, recognise, and protect Ladakh’s wildlife like snow leopards. It is then that Ladakhis can claim the economic benefits of wildlife tourism. Fiaz is a Sunni Muslim. Ladakh has a history of deep communal divide. In his expression of claiming snow leopards as “ours,” he attempt to establish a relationship with the snow leopards and draws attention to a Ladakhi society beyond the religious divide. He claims the snow leopards and economic benefits in the name of all Ladakhis, beyond narrow religious identities. Fiaz belongs to Leh City. His social and cultural capital of coming from being urban Ladakhi has added to how he speaks English and the relative ease with which he could enter the tourism industry, starting with hosting chadar trek (walking on frozen Indus) tourists. Nevertheless, snow leopard tourism is prompting some Ladakhis associated with tourism to redefine their relatedness with Ladakh[xxviii]. They are doing so by foregrounding a communally harmonious Ladakh against outside business interests.

Given this, wildlife tourism seems to be extending the question of identity in Ladakh studies. For many Ladakh studies scholars, identity has been a significant subject of interest. Scholars have highlighted what communal identity and politics does to cross-religion community relationships (van Beek; Aggarwal; Srinivas; Smith; Bhan). Some scholars have suggested that the development and spread of representational local governance systems in the form of local councils has led to the assertion of religious identity in Ladakh (van Beek; Bhan). Furthermore, to preserve their cultural identity, Ladakhis elites attempted to keep the tourism business for themselves by trying to keep outsiders from entering the tourism sector in the 1980s (Michaud). In other words, business and cultural identity mixed even in the initial years of tourism in Ladakh. More recently, geographers Mabel Gergan and Smith have touched upon Ladakhi identity/belongingness by following migrating Ladakhi youth to Indian cities (Gergan and Smith; Gergan and Smith). “The exposure of the city moves back into homespaces, unevenly and differently based on the narratives that the student-as-protagonist writes for their own life. Exposure to what an urban future might look like is one piece of how they then work to write their own future and the future of their hometowns” (Gergan and Smith 401 in “Theorizing the City: Racialized Minority Youth in India’s Global Cities”). From the narratives of my research interlocutors, they are writing about their future in snow leopard tourism businesses. Like their predecessors, they want to corner snow leopard tourism’s economic benefits exclusively. Moreover, they are writing about their homeland’s future by rewriting their belongingness to Ladakh through snow leopards.

Similarly, Nasir, a wildlife guide, said: “The wilderness like this shrinking all over the world. Places like Ladakh hardly remains. It has become our responsibility to preserve the way of life in this harsh climate like our ancestors did.” The duty of being Ladakhi here is to acknowledge the previous generation’s hardship and to appreciate Ladakh’s wilderness, which sustained a healthy population of snow leopards. Nasir studied in Kashmir and has an MBA. He regularly came to Uley and I spoke to him several times. The quote is from one of the formal interviews with Nasir. In the section on the imaginaries of Ladakh, I have mentioned that in recent times Ladakh has emerged as a romanticised place and a ‘fantastical’ tourist destination. Gergan and Smith indicate that Ladakh is seen as an idyllic tourist gateway for the Indian urban elite to get away from the scorching sun of the plains. “It is these visions of their hometowns that Ladakhi youth inhabit, embody, and wrestle against in the city – an experience that perhaps makes for an uncomfortable lived reality and exacerbates the desire to return.” (Mabel Denzin Gergan and Smith 402 in “Theorizing the City: Racialized Minority Youth in India’s Global Cities”). One of the common threads in the narratives of my research participants is the internalisation of these romanticised tropes. As indicated above, many research interlocutors associated with wildlife also have a romanticised idea of the previous generation of Ladakhis as conservationists who lived harmoniously with wildlife like snow leopards and ibexes. 

Somewhat differently, Platopa, a fresh graduate with a BA from one of Delhi University’s north campus colleges, foregrounds another form of duty as a Ladakhi vis-à-vis snow leopards and wildlife. He told me, “If tourists from faraway places are coming to Ladakh to see wildlife like snow leopards and we have not seen or have made an attempt to see wildlife, then it is a matter of shame for us.” Bulu, Nasir, and Faiz are directly involved in tourism. Platopa is a fresh graduate who finished his graduate degree in 2022. I met him at a wildlife training program in November. His paternal uncle brought him there to introduce him to the world of wildlife tourism. During the winter, I bumped into Platopa several times during my fieldwork, once in Phyang village near Leh City. As mentioned, a snow leopard killed a prey near human habitation in Phyang. The scene was like a mela (fair) with tourists, wildlife guides, officials, helpers, drivers, and journalists hustling and bustling. In the crowd, Platopa emerged and said, “Julley, acho!” (Hello, brother!) to me. His camera was mounted on a tripod to capture the snow leopard 150 meters away on the hill. I mention this because Platopa was not directly involved in tourism yet was starting his journey of interest in wildlife. He was sincerely performing the duty of seeing, following, and observing the wildlife of Ladakh. As mentioned earlier, not doing so is a matter of shame, as the young Ladakhi said. 



For most of my research interlocutors, the relationship with the cat has an economic angle, as many are directly involved in tourism, like Dorjay Daya, who shed “tears of unmitigated joy” upon seeing snow leopards. Dorjey Daya is an owner of a travel company called Maitreya Tours. For them, the snow leopard, its prey, and its habitat are becoming the handle with which to (re)connect with the region. In the process, a redefinition of Ladakh is emerging. Ladakh appears as a wild space, as Nasir pointed out. However, this wild space is also a space that humans have shared with wildlife for generations. They emphasise Ladakhi society beyond the lines of religion through their love for snow leopards. This newer connection to Ladakh is based on knowledge of and concern for the region’s wildlife. Being Ladakhi comes with the responsibility for understanding, recognising, and conserving Ladakh’s wildlife, including snow leopards, as Fiaz indicated. 

I have tried to show that socio-economic practices are an essential factor in remoulding the relationship between some Ladakhis and the snow leopards. The two significant factors that come to the forefront are the economic practices of eco-tourism around snow leopards and the imagery of Ladakh as a romanticised tourist place. With the emergence of snow leopard tourism, economic benefits have arrived for Ladakhis through employment opportunities and increased tourism revenue. These efforts have changed how Ladakhis perceive and interact with snow leopards. Once a nuisance, the snow leopard has become a valuable community asset. The reimagination of Ladakh has provided another aspect to the relationship with the snow leopards. The circulation of Ladakh’s picturesque landscape, with its rich cultural and wildlife heritage, has attracted increasing numbers of tourists who seek adventurous and exotic experiences. The circulating images of Ladakh as a desired tourist hotspot have also been imbibed by Ladakhis who have spent time outside Ladakh and who also accrue economic benefits through those images.


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Acknowledgement: I am grateful to the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust and Wildlife Tour Operator Association in Ladakh, my supervisor Dr Vasundhara Bhojvaid, and the people of Hemisshukpachan, Uley and Saspotse for facilitating this research paper.

[i] An example of such a Ladakhi would be the research assistant employed by Karine Gagne while doing her fieldwork for the book Caring for Glaciers: Land, Animals, and Humanity in the Himalayas. Gagne spent considerable ink to shell out the precarity her research assistant was going through after returning to Ladakh. The education outside Ladakh made the research assistant less suited for a life in Ladakh. 

[ii] It is said that these ungulates are rapidly declining in numbers owing to habitat loss and poaching (Namgail).

[iii] Leh district has a predominantly Buddhist majority with Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Christians and Hindus as minorities. Kargil has 80% Muslim, with an overwhelmingly Shia majority. Seventy-two per cent of Leh district and 87 per cent of Kargil district are designated as Schedule Tribes.

[iv] Post-joining the union, Ladakh was kept out of reach of tourists. In 1974, the government decided to open some parts of Ladakh for visitors.

[v]  The bedding capacity of hotels is 8865, and the guest houses are 7842. In Kargil, there are 43 hotels. The taxis in Ladakh are number 3646, as shown in A Tourism Vision for Ladakh.    

[vi] Accessed on June 22, 2023.

[vii] The total population of Ladakh is 230,000. Out of which 60,000, which makes 26 per cent are young. Out of these 60,000 estimated 12,500 students or so migrate to India (Williams-Oerberg).

[viii] J&K was sold to Gulab Singh under the treaty of Amritsar 1846 (Hussain).

[ix] Historically, Ladakh was the knot that connected the trade and pilgrimage routes of Central Asia, Tibet, Baltistan, Kashmir and Himachal (Rizvi). 

[x] From 1948, India fought four wars with Pakistan (in 1948, 1965, 1972, and 1999) and one war with China (in 1962). In all of them, Ladakh has always been one of the fronts. Due to the 1948 war with Pakistan and the subsequent wars (1962, 1965, 1972, and 1999) with China and Pakistan, the region was closed to tourists and researchers from 1948 to 1974. 

[xi] The former National Security Advisor of India writes, “The Securitisation of the frontier that the British began has been continued by both India and China” (Menon).

[xii] Tourism in the border area is a state-making project because the state permits tourists to visit a sensitive area. For instance, to visit the eastern bank of Pangong Tso Chinese state issues permits, while to go to the western banks, the Indian state gives permission.

[xiii]  “Moreover, and significantly for the present discussion, in displacing agriculture as the ultimate source of livelihood and in contributing to the rural exodus, the economic restructuring of recent decades has broken many of the lay community arrangements that underpinned agrarian activities” (Gagné 200). 

[xiv]  In the late 1970s, Ladakh was divided into Kargil and Leh districts. Kargil, on the western side, has a Shia Muslim majority, and in Leh, the followers of Tibetan Buddhists predominate. In other words, Ladakh is where the influence of Tibetan Buddhism and Persian and Central Asian countries meet. The region was carved out of J&K state in 2019 and made a Union Territory, a central government-administered semi-state. 

[xv] Demenge et al. referred to this period’s works as “apolitical monographs” (8).

[xvi] In terms of the relationship of colonial masters with the snow leopard and its prey, there was an antagonistic undercurrent which marked the big cat as a pest (Hussain). 

[xvii] In many Tibetan-populated places, hunting has continued for sustenance and financial gain until recently. The modern solid conservation regulations and their implementation, as well as the severe depletion or local extinction of preferred game species in some locations, have virtually abolished hunting as a domestic hobby (Huber). 

[xviii]  Native inhabitants of Sham are called Shamma.

[xix]  Kesar saga is an epic story of Tibet, greater Central Asia, Baltistan and Ladakh. The tale was still passed down orally by the folk balladeers, which improved the story’s narrative and language. Early in the 12th century, the tale reached its pinnacle of popularity and took on its final form.

[xx] I have been conducting my PhD fieldwork in the Sham region since November 2022. Moreover, I have been conducting fieldwork in Leh town since September 2022. 

[xxi] For some native hunters, the excitement or the thrill of the chase was just as alluring as the allure of the meat, but very rarely, hunting was done solely for the thrill of it and unrelated to survival. This held for both the local population and the native rulers. Alternatively, to put it more bluntly, compared to British ‘sportsmen’, who seldom ever consumed the meat, native hunters always used the flesh. In the indigenous belief system, unlike in sport hunting, hunting did not develop a competitive and antagonistic dynamic between nature and society or between two individuals. While the goal of sport hunting was to conquer nature via a process of healthy competition and fair play, indigenous hunting aimed to subsist off of nature through a process of just exchange (Hussain).

[xxii] Bhatia and her co-authors show that 35 per cent of the respondents had a negative attitude towards snow leopards. Another 29 per cent saw snow leopards from a utilitarian perspective to use their body parts in medicine and rituals and for trophy hunting. Only 10 per cent of the respondent had a positive towards snow leopards. The point I want to make here is that although there is a complex hate-love relationship with the snow leopards. However, most respondents had a negative attitude, and close to 30% of their respondents should use the snow leopard as a means, not an end (Bhatia et al.).

[xxiii] Two NGOs that are active in this field are Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) and Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT).

[xxiv] One of the first snow leopard tourism programs was started in Hemis National Park. The SLC and the wildlife department, which oversees the park’s administration, combined to form a program allowing tourists to stay with families in the homestays

[xxv] The word pa after Uley indicates belongingness to Uley. The word Ladakhpa, for instance, would indicate belongingness to Ladakh.

[xxvi] Several villages are famous for snow leopard tourism in Hemis National Park. For instance, Stok, Shang, and Rumbak. 

[xxvii] The names in the section are pseudo-names.

[xxviii] It must be noted that Fiaz spent less time outside of Ladakh. He was enrolled in a distance degree and occasionally went to Jammu to appear for examinations.


Padma Rigzin is a Shamma from Hemisshukpachan village in Ladakh. Like many natives of his generation, he grew up with one foot in the Ladakhi lifeworld and the other in the modern lifeworld. His doctorate research, at the Sociology Department at the Shiv Nadar, is focused on the changing human- snow leopard relationship in the Anthropocene.