On Nov. 20, residents of Gya village in northern India’s Ladakh region woke up to a devastating loss — 16 yaks on one of their high-altitude pasture lands, nearly 16,000 feet above sea level, had been killed. They belonged to Phuntsog Tserinng Choksar, a yakzi (yak herder). “It could have been either a snow leopard or a pack of wolves that attacked the yaks,” says Karma Sonam, a local wildlife conservationist.
For the seminomadic pastoral communities that span Ladakh and the Tibetan Trans-Himalaya region in China, yaks are a source of livelihood and symbols of wealth. Yet these pastoralists share this rugged, mountainous terrain with snow leopards and Himalayan wolves that routinely target their livestock, setting up what for centuries has been a classic man-versus-animal conflict.