Sonam Nurboo was born in village Sumda Chun – in the Markha region of Ladakh. Around two decades ago, people residing in Markha Valley were so poor, they did not have even the most basic resources. They had only limited knowledge of farming which they learnt through conventional ways by the help of which they could cultivate wheat and barley but only enough for self-consumption.
Vegetables and fruits were a luxury for people and were mostly imported. This scarcity of resources pushed people to take resort to the only available option, hunting. As more people started hunting, its effect on wildlife was visible soon. Animals such as blue sheep, deer and ibex were reduced to a substantial amount. It even resulted in a decrease of population of snow leopards to reduce too as they feed on these animals.
Soon, meat and Tsampa (flour milled from roasted barley) became the primary diet of locals. During winters, there was limited food availability and it resulted in more hunting. As a wildlife lover, Sonam was concerned about this consistent attack on wildlife and its long-term effect. He would also think about wildlife conservation and how he could contribute to it.
Sonam found himself connected to nature so, he decided to work in the tourism sector. After completing his primary education, he started working with a well-known tour operator in Ladakh. Initially, his job was of a helper but soon, he had the opportunity to work as a tourist guide which was his dream job. While doing these jobs, Sonam had the opportunity to travel to different places.
He noticed that people in other regions would conserve wildlife unlike, the locals of his region. People in these regions would treat wildlife with love as it brought tourism and ultimately, employment opportunities for them. Sonam decided to take some serious steps for wildlife conservation. He contested for the election of Sarpanch and won. Soon he started discussing the issue of wildlife conservation with the locals and joined hands with the wildlife department representatives for the job.
Gradually, their efforts bore fruits and positive effects on wildlife started to become visible. Sonam was well aware that the major cause of hunting animals was limited food availability. So, they needed to enable farmers to produce more food. He collaborated with the Agriculture Department to train local farmers in different methods of farming. People could produce more food even during winters, thanks to access to new technology like greenhouse farming.
As years passed, tourists started to visit villages in the Markha region and people in these regions prospered. Tourists brought many job opportunities for local people like homestays for trekkers. Village women make beautifully handcrafted toys of snow leopard and other animals from wool in winter and then sell these handicrafts to tourists.
Markha Valley now hosts a thriving population of blue sheep, ibex, wolf, deer and snow leopards. People have largely given up on their habit of hunting wildlife and started living in peace and harmony with wild animals.