DNA profiling to find Bhutan`s snow leopard count

From zeenews.com:

Thimphu, May 20: With tigers and wild dogs encroaching habitat of snow leopards and little information available about their spread and abundance, scientists in Bhutan are mulling genetic fingerprinting to know more about this elusive animal.

The technique, used along with a modern graph calculation system, will provide a more scientific estimate of the number, spread and abundance of snow leopards in Bhutan, said animal biologist Tsewang.

“To track these animals by genetic fingerprinting, we will collect their ‘scat’ or faeces and analyse their DNA for more information on them,” he said.

Tsewang has already gone ‘scat’ hunting and come up with some interesting findings. “In Bartshong-Lingshi under Jigme Dorji National Park we were told by officials that stray dogs were found to be encroaching in the habitat of the snow leopard.”

According to villagers, these dogs have also been known to corner leopards and steal their kill with ease. Authorities say tigers in the country are being found at altitudes so high that they are overlapping the habitat of the snow leopard.

According to Tsewang, the best places for snow leopard scat and signs are off the beaten track and deeper into the forest. “These leopards prefer places like steep cliffs at an elevation, bases of cliffs, narrow bases and ridges. They sometimes even come as low as the river when travelling from one place to another,” he said.

The study, when completed, will also show whether snow leopards are using the biological corridors.

“We’ll determine this by seeing if the gene pools are mixing in the different parks of Bhutan,” said Tsewang.

Bureau Report


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