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Filla, M., Lama, R. P., Ghale, T. R., Filla, T., Heurich, M., Waltert, M., Khorozyan, I. (2022). Blue sheep strongly affect snow leopard relative abundance but not livestock depredation in the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal. Global Ecology and Conservation, 37(e02153), 1–15.
Abstract: Large carnivores play key roles in their ecosystems, but their protection is a major challenge in biodiversity conservation due to conflicts with human interests. The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is the top predator of Asian high-altitude landscapes and faces various threats including wild prey depletion and illegal killings as a consequence of livestock depredation. As the interactions between snow leopards, wild prey, and livestock are still insufficiently understood, we studied the effects of 1) wild prey (blue sheep Pseudois nayaur and Himalayan marmots Marmota himalayana) and domestic prey on snow leopard relative abundance, and of 2) these ecological parameters and intervention applications on livestock depredation by snow leopards. In the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal, we monitored wildlife populations and livestock along transects (490.8 km) in 82 grid cells (4 ×4 km) in 2019 and 2021 and conducted questionnaire surveys to determine livestock depredation between 2018 and 2021 (n = 479 households). We applied generalized linear models (GLMs) and sample comparison testing to examine the effects of prey densities and other environmental and anthropogenic predictors on snow leopard relative abundance and livestock depredation. Blue sheep density strongly positively affected snow leopard relative abundance, which also increased with terrain ruggedness and decreased with increasing densities of livestock and the human population. The size of livestock holdings shaped depredation events of large livestock (yak, cattle and horse), whereas depredation events of sheep and goats, which accounted for most (68.6%) depredated animals, decreased with increasing human population density and marmot presence. The strong impact of blue sheep on snow leopard relative abundance supports demands for integrating this ungulate into conservation and management plans, including wild prey recovery and translocation. The rather weak evidence for effects of blue sheep on depredation events suggests that conflicts over livestock depredation by snow leopards would neither be inflicted nor solved by increasing wild prey abundance. This demonstrates the need to improve intervention strategies in the Annapurna region, such as predator-proofing corrals and optimizing daytime herding practices. We suggest further exploring the effects of marmots and other secondary prey on livestock depredation rates, and testing the suitability of additional interventions, e.g., dogs and deterrents, as conflict mitigation tools. Our results will support wildlife managers in setting conservation priorities to promote the long-term co-existence of local people and snow leopards.
Rode, J., Lambert, C., Marescot, L., Chaix, B., Beesau, J., Bastian, S., Kyrbashev, J., Cabanat, A.L. (2021). Population monitoring of snow leopards using camera trapping in Naryn State Nature Reserve, Kyrgyzstan, between 2016 and 2019. Global Ecology and Conservation, 31(e01850), 1–6.
Abstract: Four field seasons of snow leopard (Panthera uncia) camera trapping inside Naryn State Nature Reserve, Kyrgyzstan, performed thanks to citizen science expeditions, allowed detecting a minimal population of five adults, caught every year with an equilibrated sex ratio (1.5:1) and reproduction: five cubs or subadults have been identified from three litters of two different females. Crossings were observed one to three times a year, in front of most camera traps, and several times a month in front of one of them. Overlap of adults’ minimal territories was observed in front of several camera traps, regardless of their sex. Significant snow leopard presence was detected in the buffer area and at Ulan area which is situated at the reserve border. To avoid poaching on this apex predator and its preys, extending the more stringent protection measures of the core zone to both the Southern buffer area and land adjacent to Ulan is recommended.
Chetri, M., Odden, M., Sharma, K., Flagstad, O., Wegge, P. (2019). Estimating snow leopard density using fecal DNA in a large landscape in north-central Nepal. Global Ecology and Conservation, (17), 1–8.
Abstract: Although abundance estimates have a strong bearing on the conservation status of a
species, less than 2% of the global snow leopard distribution range has been sampled
systematically, mostly in small survey areas. In order to estimate snow leopard density
across a large landscape, we collected 347 putative snow leopard scats from 246 transects
(490 km) in twenty-six 5 5km sized sampling grid cells within 4393 km2 in Annapurna-
Manaslu, Nepal. From 182 confirmed snow leopard scats, 81 were identified as belonging
to 34 individuals; the remaining were discarded for their low (<0.625) quality index. Using
maximum likelihood based spatial capture recapture analysis, we developed candidate
model sets to test effects of various covariates on density and detection of scats on transects.
The best models described the variation in density as a quadratic function of
elevation and detection as a linear function of topography. The average density estimate of
snow leopards for the area of interest within Nepal was 0.95 (SE 0.19) animals per 100 km2
(0.66e1.41 95% CL) with predicted densities varying between 0.1 and 1.9 in different parts,
thus highlighting the heterogeneity in densities as a function of habitat types. Our density
estimate was low compared to previous estimates from smaller study areas. Probably,
estimates from some of these areas were inflated due to locally high abundances in overlap
zones (hotspots) of neighboring individuals, whose territories probably range far beyond
study area borders. Our results highlight the need for a large-scale approach in snow
leopard monitoring, and we recommend that methodological problems related to spatial
scale are taken into account in future snow leopard research.
Farrington, J., Tsering, D. (2020). Snow leopard distribution in the Chang Tang region of Tibet, China. Global Ecology and Conservation, 23.
Abstract: In 2006 and 2007, the authors conducted human-wildlife conflict surveys in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Shainza, Nyima, and Tsonyi Counties, located in the TAR’s remote Chang Tang region. At this time, prior knowledge of the snow leopard in this vast 700,000 km2 region was limited to just eight firsthand snow leopard sign and conflict location records and 15 secondhand records. These surveys revealed a previously undocumented and growing problem of human-snow leopard conflict. The 2007 survey also yielded 39 new snow leopard conflict incident locations and 24 new snow leopard sign locations. Next, snow leopard telephone interviews and mapping exercises were conducted with Tibet Forestry Bureau staff that yielded an additional 63 and 144 new snow leopard conflict and sighting location records, respectively. These 270 new snow leopard location records, together with 39 records collected by other observers from 1988 to 2009, were compiled into a snow leopard distribution map for the Chang Tang. This effort greatly expanded knowledge of the snow leopard’s distribution in this region which remains one of the least understood of the snow leopard’s key range areas. New knowledge gained on snow leopard distribution in the Chang Tang through this exercise will help identify human-snow leopard conflict hot spots and inform design of human-snow leopard conflict mitigation and conservation strategies for northwest Tibet. Nevertheless, extensive additional field verification work will be required to definitively delineate snow leopard distribution in the Chang Tang. Importantly, since 2006, a number of major transportation infrastructure projects have made the Chang Tang more accessible, including paving of highways, new railroads, and new airports. This has led to a greatly increased number of tourists visiting western Tibet, particularly Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. At the same time, large areas of the Chang Tang have been fenced for livestock pastures as part of government initiatives to allocate pasturelands to individual families. All three of these developments have a large potential to cause disturbance to snow leopards and their prey species, including by hindering their movements and degrading their habitat. Therefore, future conservation measures in the Chang Tang will need to insure that development activities and the growing number of visitors to the Chang Tang do not adversely affect the distribution of snow leopards and their prey species or directly degrade their habitat.
Augugliaro, C., Christe, P., Janchivlamdan, C., Baymanday, H.,
Zimmermann, F. (2020). Patterns of human interaction with snow leopard and co-predators
in the Mongolian western Altai: Current issues and perspectives. Global Ecology and Conservation, 24, 1–21.
Abstract: Large carnivores can cause considerable economic damage,
mainly due to livestock depredation. These conficts instigate negative
attitude towards their conservation, which could in the extreme case
lead to retaliatory killing. Here we focus on the snow leopard (Panthera
uncia), a species of conservation concern with particularly large
spatial requirements. We conducted the study in the Bayan Olgii
province, one of the poorest provinces of Mongolia, where the majority
of the human population are traditional herders. We conducted a survey
among herders (N 261) through a semi-structured questionnaire with the
aim to assess: the current and future herding practices and prevention
measures, herders’ perceptions and knowledge of the environmental
protection and hunting laws; the perceived livestock losses to snow
leopard, wolf (Canis lupus), and wolverine (Gulo gulo), as well as to
non-predatory factors; the key factors affecting livestock losses to
these three large carnivores; and, finally, the attitudes towards these
three large carnivores. Non-predatory causes of mortality were slightly
higher than depredation cases, representing 4.5% and 4.3% of livestock
holdings respectively. While no depredation of livestock was reported
from wolverines, snow leopard and wolf depredation made up 0.2% and 4.1%
of total livestock holdings, respectively. Herders’ attitudes towards
the three large carnivores were negatively affected by the magnitude of
the damages since they had a positive overall attitude towards both snow
leopard and wolverine, whereas the attitude towards wolf was negative.
We discuss conservation and management options to mitigate herder-snow
leopard impacts. To palliate the negative consequences of the increasing
trend in livestock numbers, herd size reduction should be encouraged by
adding economic value to the individual livestock and/or by promoting
alternative income and/or ecotourism. Furthermore, co-management between
government and stakeholders would help tackle this complex problem, with
herders playing a major role in the development of livestock management
strategies. Traditional practices, such as regularly shifting campsites
and using dogs and corrals at night, could reduce livestock losses
caused by snow leopards.