The image is of an important part of a stupa currently being built by my friend Najarman Gurung, he and his family have undergone a great struggle to get this done. The depiction of wild animal within the context of our relationship to nature is fundamental to the Sacred Valley Concept (SVC). I’m looking forward to explaining this further next month as part of the reboot as the Year of the Tiger finishes and there will be updates on a leopard named Thagu.

Thagu is a large, strong male leopard, a true mountain cat capable of taking down large buffalo, which indeed he has done. Thagu has been on my mind a long time now, the name loosely means oldest brother in Gurung language and his presence in the area where the stupa has been built, his relationship to his surroundings and the people also there, are fundamental to the SVC.

Another important element is how the SVC fits into the movement known as the ‘Rights of Nature’ (RoN) which is gaining momentum globally. An explanation of the RoN is at a paper you can read HERE but the crux of it is how nature as its own entity needs and deserves the same rights as humans. Coming from New Zealand where the RoN has been implemented in a legal framework, it is a philosophy which I’ve always felt has been in my DNA. Several countries around the world are serious in their practice with the RoN in the scope of environmental policy. Beyond that though, in line with the SVC, it is very much a consciousness and at the time of the reboot and beyond I’ll go deeper into detail but also how through the SVC there is a group of us actually living the philosophy, our relationship to the leopard very much symbolizing that.

I want to clarify here that ‘leopard’ in the Himalayan area this story and operation are being told from does in fact mean three species, snow leopard, clouded leopard and of course simply ‘leopard’, the animal I’ve been focused on for many years now. Working with professional story tellers preparing for a documentary has been enlightening for me because of the potential, not mine alone, to expand thinking beyond normal conservation paradigms. This is why the community aspect of the project and documentary as a combined entity is so vital and I can promise some compelling characters, both human and non-human, are coming through.

Thagu is one of them, I have long been in awe of these little understood mountain leopards and the fact that Thagu can be used to tell the story of his species is something I feel will be very powerful, in fact it already is.

This is just a little hint of what is to come, it is both a culmination and a beginning, stories, action and characters in a remarkable place where coexistence is raw and real.

Working in and understanding different landscapes, places where there has been tragedy on both the sides for people and leopards through to areas where coexistence is working better but needs a lot of effort to continue to do so, and improve, has given me insights as to how thinking such as the SVC, RoN and leopards such as Thagu can be blended using science, spirituality and the need to improve our relationship to nature to give ultimately positive outcomes. A few days ago I visited a place called Tiribun and a ridgeline above at about 4000m, a yak herders camp empty as men and livestock drop to lower altitudes as the Himalayan winter sets in. It was part of a day in the mountains where I saw no other people, it gave me the hope and determination that nature can hold sway, undisturbed and yet compliment what we need to survive, the recovery months of Tiribun high pastures an example, snow leopards and leopards included. Tiribun and Thagu are intertwined, part of the web which needs protecting, those stories to come…

Protection as part of coexistence, we can do it, it just takes the will, the need is already there.

If you can help, even just a little bit, please go HERE.

Thanks for reading, do come back for the reboot on 1 February, best wishes to all, Jack.