In addition to nearly half of the 336 monasteries residing in leopard habitat, the team found that nine out of 10 were within 3 miles (5 km) of the territory.
Since 2009, several conservation organizations have worked with four monasteries in the region to reduce human-leopard conflicts and to train monks to protect wildlife.
The team found that many Buddhist monks -- not just those at the four monasteries they worked with -- actively patrolled the areas to prevent the killing of snow leopards; the monks also taught the local people that killing the majestic creatures was wrong.
In household surveys with 144 families, most people said they did not kill wildlife, with many citing Buddhism's nonviolence as their reasoning.
All told, a greater proportion of the snow leopards were being protected in regions around monasteries than in the core nature reserve set aside for the big cats, the study found.
The findings suggest programs that work with Buddhist monasteries to promote snow leopard conservation could be remarkably effective.
About 80 percent of the people within the snow leopards' natural range practice Tibetan Buddhism, so the strategy could conceivably be expanded beyond the current area, the authors wrote in the paper.
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