Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 26th, 2007
Helen inspired so many people to help her cause that the Snow Leopard Trust continues to grow stronger and accomplish goals Helen envisioned almost 30 years ago. Snow Leopard Trust Executive Director Brad Rutherford.
Helen Elaine Freeman, 75, known to many as “the Jane Goodall of snow leopards” for her advocacy on behalf of the increasingly rare central Asian big cats, died on September 21, 2007, of lung disease.
Freeman founded the International Snow Leopard Trust in 1981 after becoming fascinated with two of the creatures at the Woodland Park Zoo. Her interest began with Nicholas and Alexandra, two snow leopards obtained from the Soviet Union in 1972, while she was working as a volunteer docent at the zoo.
“The more I learned, the more I saw them, the more interesting they were to me,” she told the Seattle Post Intelligencer in 2001.
The trust became the largest organization working to preserve snow leopards in their native habitat. Many likened her work to that of Goodall’s efforts on behalf of wild chimpanzees.
She traveled to Asia, Europe and around the United States to drum up support for protecting the endangered species, and the trust she founded
Scientists believe about 4,500 to 7,500 snow leopards, which typically stand about two feet high and weigh 60 to 120 pounds, are scattered across rugged and remote terrain in 12 nations, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, China, Russia, Mongolia and Uzbekistan.
She earned a degree in animal behavior at the University of Washington, then helped design a program that overcame problems for zoos in getting snow leopards to breed in captivity. Nicholas and Alexandra produced 29 cubs.
In 1984 Freeman was named chairwoman of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan.