Shehzad, W. M. C., Thomas Michael. Pompanon, Francois. Purejav, Lkhagvajav. Coissac, Eric. Riaz, Tiayyba. Taberlet, Pierre. (2012). Prey Preference of Snow Leopard (Panthera Uncia) in South Gobi, Mongolia. PLoS ONE, (Feb 2012).
Abstract: Accurate information about the diet of large carnivores that are elusive and inhabit inaccessible terrain, is required to properly design conservation strategies. Predation on livestock and retaliatory killing of predators have become serious issues throughout the range of the snow leopard. These techniques have inherent limitation in their ability to properly identify both snow leopard feces and prey taxa, To examine the frequency of livestock prey and and nearly-threatened argali in the diet of the snow leopard, we employed the recently developed DNA-based diet approach to study a snow leopard population located in the Tost Mountains, South Gobi, Mongolia. After DNA was extracted from the feces, a region of ~100 bp long from mitochondrial 12S rRNA gene was amplified, making use of universal primers for vertebrates and a blocking oligonucleotide specific to snow leopard DNA. The amplicons were then sequenced using a next-generation sequencing platform. We observed a total of five different prey items from 81 fecal samples. Siberian ibex predominated the diet (in 70.4% of the feces), followed by domestic goat (17.3%) and argali sheep (8.6%). The major part of the diet was comprised of large ungulates (in 98.8% of the feces) including wild ungulates (79%) and domestic livestock (19.7%). The findings of the present study will help to understand the feeding ecology of the snow leopard, as well as to address the conservation and management issues pertaining to this wild cat.