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Henschel, P., & Ray, J. (2003). Leopards in African Rainforests: Survey and Monitoring Techniques (Wildlife Conservation Society, Ed.).
Abstract: Monitoring Techniques Forest leopards have never been systematically surveyed in African forests, in spite of their potentially vital ecological role as the sole large mammalian predators in these systems. Because leopards are rarely seen in this habitat, and are difficult to survey using the most common techniques for assessing relative abundances of forest mammals, baseline knowledge of leopard ecology and responses to human disturbance in African forests remain largely unknown. This technical handbook sums up the experience gained during a two-year study of leopards by Philipp Henschel in the Lop‚ Reserve in Gabon, Central Africa, in 2001/2002, supplemented by additional experience from carnivore studies conducted by Justina Ray in southwestern Central African Republic and eastern Congo (Zaire) . The main focus of this effort has been to develop a protocol that can be used by fieldworkers across west and central Africa to estimate leopard densities in various forest types. In developing this manual, Henschel tested several indirect methods to assess leopard numbers in both logged and unlogged forests, with the main effort devoted to testing remote photography survey methods developed for tigers by Karanth (e.g., Karanth 1995, Karanth & Nichols 1998; 2000; 2002), and modifying them for the specific conditions characterizing African forest environments. This handbook summarizes the results of the field testing, and provides recommendations for techniques to assess leopard presence/absence, relative abundance, and densities in African forest sites. We briefly review the suitability of various methods for different study objectives and go into particular detail on remote photography survey methodology, adapting previously developed methods and sampling considerations specifically to the African forest environment. Finally, we briefly discuss how camera trapping may be used as a tool to survey other forest mammals. Developing a survey protocol for African leopards is a necessary first step towards a regional assessment and priority setting exercise targeted at forest leopards, similar to those carried out on large carnivores in Asian and South American forests.
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.
Weiskopf, S. R., Kachel, S. M., McCarthy, K. P. (2016). What Are Snow Leopards Really Eating? Identifying Bias in Food-Habit Studies. Wildlife Society Bulletin, , 1–8.
Abstract: Declining prey populations are widely recognized as a primary threat to snow leopard (Panthera
uncia) populations throughout their range. Effective snow leopard conservation will depend upon reliable
knowledge of food habits. Unfortunately, past food-habit studies may be biased by inclusion of nontarget
species in fecal analysis, potentially misinforming managers about snow leopard prey requirements.
Differentiation between snow leopard and sympatric carnivore scat is now cost-effective and reliable using
genetics. We used fecal mitochondrial DNA sequencing to identify scat depositors and assessment bias in
snow leopard food-habit studies. We compared presumed, via field identification, and genetically confirmed
snow leopard scats collected during 2005 and 2012 from 4 sites in Central Asia, using standard forensic
microscopy to identify prey species. Field identification success varied across study sites, ranging from 21% to
64% genetically confirmed snow leopard scats. Our results confirm the importance of large ungulate prey for
snow leopards. Studies that fail to account for potentially commonplace misidentification of snow leopard
scat may mistakenly include a large percentage of scats originating from other carnivores and report
inaccurate dietary assessments. Relying on field identification of scats led to overestimation of percent
occurrence, biomass, and number of small mammals consumed, but underestimated values of these measures for large ungulates in snow leopard diet. This clarification suggests that the conservation value of secondary prey, such as marmots (Marmota spp.) and other small mammals, may be overstated in the literature; stable snow leopard populations are perhaps more reliant upon large ungulate prey than previously understood.