Most people want to protect endangered species. At least in theory they do. In actuality, it's not always so clear.
For students: We hope this guide sharpens your reading skills and deepens your understanding.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from AramcoWorld, by teachers at any level.
Common Core Standards met in this lesson: RI.9-10.2, W9-10.1 (see details below).

—The Editors
Do you have comments? I'd be pleased to hear from you at 
[email protected].
—Julie Weiss


"Asian Nations Unite to Protect Snow Leopards"

Most people want to protect endangered species. At least in theory they do. In actuality, it's not always so clear. That's because sometimes protecting species and the natural environment requires sacrificing other activities—activities that may be part of how people make a living. Put in another way, the need for economic stability sometimes conflicts with the need to protect the vulnerable. In this lesson, you will analyze this conflict by focusing on a specific study: efforts across Asia to protect the endangered snow leopard. By the time you finish these activities, you will be able to: 
  • Explain why people from so many nations value snow leopards and want to protect them.
  • Identify the social political and economic forces that contribute to endangering snow leopards.
  • Present solutions to problems that have hindered conservation efforts.
  • Evaluate your solutions.
Start Here: An Overview 

Read "Asian Nations Unite to Protect Snow Leopards." To help  you see how the article is organized, find each of the following sections in the article and mark where it begins and ends:
  • The cultural meanings of snow leopards
  • How Information about snow leopards is gathered
  • The social, political and economic forces that have contributed to making snow leopards an endangered species
  • How conservationists are addressing the problems.
With the overall structure of the article clear, and key topics identified, you're ready to begin.

Why Work Together? Why Snow Leopards?

First off, let's take notes that the efforts to protect the snow leopard have drawn together people and organizations from 12 different countries. It's amazing, really, if you think about it. It's hard enough to get individuals to agree about anything. It's downright astounding to get people from across a continent to agree about the need to protect the snow leopard and to work together to save it. What is it about snow leopards that has united these diverse people? To answer the question, look in particular at two sections of the article—the one that talks about the cultural meanings of the snow leopard, and the one that provides evidence that the snow leopard is endangered. Imagine you are one of the people attending the Second International Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Forum. Write a short statement—a few sentences—explaining why you are there. What is it about the cause that is important enough to get you to come to this meeting? Have a few volunteers share their statements.

Conservation vs Economic Stability

It may sound abstract to say that conservation seems to conflict with economic development, especially if you're a school-aged student who may not be familiar with the difficulties of making a living. To help you think about why so many people worry about conservation taking a toll on economic prosperity, try this: Divide the class into small groups of three or four. Assign each group one of the following:

1. Imagine you are Mahabat Isalieva, the woman who raises sheep, goats and yaks in Tajikistan. Imagine that a snow leopard killed some of your cattle, enough that for a month you had no income, which means you had no way to feed your family. The walls around your land protect your livestock from other wild animals, but not from snow leopards. Discuss with your group what you would do. What actions would you take to protect the well-being of your family? then think about the other possible solutions to the problem. What would you need in order to agree not to harm a snow leopard? How might you get what you need?
2. Alternatively, take the role of a worker whose job is to protect snow leopards. You earn about $60 per month, but the snow leopards you assigned to safeguard are worth much more. One dead snow leopard, killed by a poacher, could bring in $10,000. If the poacher gave you even just a portion of that money—enough to get you to look the other way and not turn him in for breaking the law—your family would be much more secure than it is now. You wouldn't have to worry so much about whether they would have enough to eat or a place to live. What could  you do to ensure both your well-being—including your honesty—and that of the snow leopard? Come up with ideas, identifying what would need to happen in order for those ideas to become actions.

With your group, develop a presentation that shows the problem you face and various solutions you can envision. Make a graphic organizer to show visually what you need in order to secure the well-being of both your family and the snow leopard. You can also draw on the ideas for solutions presented in the article. Make your presentations to the class, with a scribe keeping track of the solutions each team offers. As a class, discuss which solutions seem the most promising, why and what would need to be in place for the people involved to implement the solutions.

Culminating Activity

Now that you've had a chance to explore the tensions between economic stability and conservation, write a statement advocating for protecting the snow leopard with a plan that also protects the security of the people who live in the 12 Asian countries where the snow leopard lives. Make sure your statement includes the problems for snow leopards and for people, and your idea(s) for solving those problems in a way that benefits everyone involved.



Common Core Standards met in this lesson:

 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

W9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.