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Rode, J., Pelletier, A., Fumey, J., Rode, S., Cabanat, A. L., Ouvrard, A., Chaix, B., White, B., Harnden, M., Xuan, N. T., Vereshagin, A., Casane, D. (2020). Diachronic monitoring of snow leopards at Sarychat-Ertash State Reserve (Kyrgyzstan) through scat genotyping: a pilot study. bioRxiv, , 1–21.
Abstract: Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are a keystone species of Central Asia’s high mountain ecosystem. The species is listed as vulnerable and is elusive, preventing accurate population assessments that could inform conservation actions. Non-invasive genetic monitoring conducted by citizen scientists offers avenues to provide key data on this species that would otherwise be inaccessible. From 2011 to 2015, OSI-Panthera citizen science expeditions tracked signs of presence of snow leopards along transects in the main valleys and crests of the Sarychat-Ertash State Reserve (Kyrgyzstan). Scat samples were genotyped at seven autosomal microsatellite loci and at a X/Y locus for sex identification, which allowed estimating a minimum of 11 individuals present in the reserve from 2011 to 2015. The genetic recapture of 7 of these individuals enabled diachronic monitoring, providing indications of individuals’ movements throughout the reserve. We found putative family relationships between several individuals. Our results demonstrate the potential of this citizen science program to get a precise description of a snow leopard population through time.