Alexander, J. S., Gopalswamy, A. M., Shi, K., Riordan, P. (2015). Face Value: Towards Robust Estimates of Snow Leopard Densities. Plos One, .
Abstract: When densities of large carnivores fall below certain thresholds, dramatic ecological effects
can follow, leading to oversimplified ecosystems. Understanding the population status of
such species remains a major challenge as they occur in low densities and their ranges are
wide. This paper describes the use of non-invasive data collection techniques combined
with recent spatial capture-recapture methods to estimate the density of snow leopards
Panthera uncia. It also investigates the influence of environmental and human activity indicators
on their spatial distribution. A total of 60 camera traps were systematically set up during
a three-month period over a 480 km2 study area in Qilianshan National Nature Reserve,
Gansu Province, China. We recorded 76 separate snow leopard captures over 2,906 trapdays,
representing an average capture success of 2.62 captures/100 trap-days. We identified
a total number of 20 unique individuals from photographs and estimated snow leopard
density at 3.31 (SE = 1.01) individuals per 100 km2. Results of our simulation exercise indicate
that our estimates from the Spatial Capture Recapture models were not optimal to
respect to bias and precision (RMSEs for density parameters less or equal to 0.87). Our
results underline the critical challenge in achieving sufficient sample sizes of snow leopard
captures and recaptures. Possible performance improvements are discussed, principally by
optimising effective camera capture and photographic data quality.
Sharma, R. K., Sharma, K., Borchers, D., Bhatnagar, Y. V., Suryawanshi, K. S., Mishra, C. (2020). Spatial variation in population-density, movement and detectability of snow leopards in
2 a multiple use landscape in Spiti Valley, Trans-Himalaya. bioRxiv, .
Abstract: The endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia occurs in human use landscapes in the mountains of South and Central Asia. Conservationists generally agree that snow leopards must be conserved through a land-sharing approach, rather than land-sparing in the form of strictly protected areas. Effective conservation through land-sharing requires a good understanding of how snow leopards respond to human use of the landscape. Snow leopard density is expected to show spatial variation within a landscape because of variation in the intensity of human use and the quality of habitat. However, snow leopards have been difficult to enumerate and monitor. Variation in the density of snow leopards remains undocumented, and the impact of human use on their populations is poorly understood. We examined spatial variation in snow leopard density in Spiti Valley, an important snow leopard landscape in India, via spatially explicit capture recapture analysis of camera trap data. We camera trapped an area encompassing a minimum convex polygon of 953 km . We estimated an overall density of 0.49 (95% CI: 0.39-0.73) adult snow leopards per 100 km . Using AIC, our best model showed the density of snow leopards to depend on wild prey density, movement about activity centres to depend on altitude, and the expected number of encounters at the activity centre to depend on topography. Models that also used livestock biomass as a density covariate ranked second, but the effect of livestock was weak. Our results highlight the importance of maintaining high density pockets of wild prey populations in multiple use landscapes to enhance snow leopard conservation.