Thanks to SLN member Ali Nawaz for distributing this press release to the SLN.
SNOW LEOPARD FOUNDATION
“Abundance of signs suggest a healthy population of snow leopards in Misgar-Chapurson”, says Hussain Ali from Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF) on completion of a month long site occupancy surveys in Misgar and Chapurson valleys, Hunza-Nagar, GilgitBaltistan. He explains objective of this survey was to explore presence/abundance of snow leopards and other sympatric carnivores in the area, as well as their conflicts with the local community.
A team comprising of four experienced researchers (Hussain and Yunus from SLF, Sher Muhammad (WCS), and Ikramullah Goher from GB Wildlife Department) and four assistants scanned a total of 63 girds (5×5 km), spreading over an area of about 2500 sq. km, within Misgar and Chapurson valleys, and documented signs of the carnivore community through standard protocol. Signs of the snow leopard were most common followed by the wolf, and brown bear. For the purpose of genetic analysis, SLF team collected about 100 fecal samples of the snow leopard. Genetic samples were also collected for wolf, brown bear, and red fox. The other wildlife encountered during the survey included Himalayan ibex, golden marmot, cape hare, and stone martin.
Population of a predator like snow leopard cannot sustain its existence without the availability of its natural prey. Thus a balance between the populations of predator and prey ensures health and functionality of an ecosystem. The SLF team assessed population of wild ungulates in the two valleys by adapting double observer method, a new technique recently developed by the SLT for ungulate surveys. The team sighted 19 Himalayan ibex in Chapurson and 83 in three different herds in Misgar valley. Relevant statistics estimates a population of about 150 ibex, indicating a healthy prey population to support snow leopards. The team also explored presence of Marco Polo sheep in the area, which has been reported in the past. Our team did not encounter this species during the survey, however local community report that Marco Polo sheep do visit Misgar Valley occasionally from the neighboring China.
The local community’s perception about carnivores was generally negative, as the human-carnivore conflict has high prevalence in the both valleys, predominantly due to livestock predation. The SLF team encountered quite a few livestock carcasses during the survey. Poaching and overgrazing are major threats to wildlife in the both valleys. Watch and ward by the GB wildlife department need to be improved. Conservation programs addressing humancarnivore conflicts can enhance acceptance of snow leopards and other larger carnivores in the area.
The Snow Leopard Foundation carried out this study in conjunction with GB Wildlife Department, and Wildlife Conservation Society. We are thankful to the Chapurson Local Support Organization, Youth Organization of Misgar for providing support during the field surveys. SLN’s Snow Leopard Conservation Grant provided field cost of this study.