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Dickman, A., Macdonald, E., Macdonald, D. (2011). A review of financial instruments to pay for predator conservation and encourage human–carnivore coexistence. PNAS, 108(34), 13937–13944.
Abstract: One of the greatest challenges in biodiversity conservation today is how to facilitate protection of species that are highly valued at a global scale but have little or even negative value at a local scale. Imperiled species such as large predators can impose significant economic costs at a local level, often in poverty-stricken rural areas where households are least able to tolerate such costs, and impede efforts of local people, especially traditional pastoralists, to escape from poverty. Furthermore, the costs and benefits involved in predator conservation often include diverse dimensions, which are hard to quantify and nearly impossible to reconcile with one another. The best chance of effective conservation relies upon translating the global value of carnivores into tangible local benefits large enough to drive conservation “on the ground.” Although human–carnivore coexistence involves significant noneconomic values, providing financial incentives to those affected negatively by carnivore presence is a common strategy for encouraging such coexistence, and this can also have important benefits in terms of reducing poverty. Here, we provide a critical overview of such financial instruments, which we term “payments to encourage coexistence”; assess the pitfalls and potentials of these methods, particularly compensation and insurance, revenuesharing, and conservation payments; and discuss how existing strategies of payment to encourage coexistence could be combined to facilitate carnivore conservation and alleviate local poverty.
Kinoshita, K., Inada, S., Seki, K., Sasaki, A., Hama, N., Kusunoki, H. (2011). Long-Term Monitoring of Fecal Steroid Hormones in Female Snow Leopards (Panthera uncia) during Pregnancy or Pseudopregnancy. PLoS ONE, 6(5), e19314. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019314.
Abstract: Knowledge of the basic reproductive physiology of snow leopards is required urgently in order to develop a suitable management conditions under captivity. In this study, the long-term monitoring of concentrations of three steroid hormones in fecal matter of three female snow leopards was performed using enzyme immunoassays: (1) estradiol-17β, (2) progesterone and (3) cortisol metabolite. Two of the female animals were housed with a male during the winter breeding season, and copulated around the day the estradiol-17β metabolite peaked subsequently becoming pregnant. The other female was treated in two different ways: (1) first housed with a male in all year round and then (2) in the winter season only. She did not mate with him on the first occasion, but did so latter around when estradiol-17β metabolite peaked, and became pseudopregnant. During pregnancy, progesterone metabolite concentrations increased for 92 or 94 days, with this period being approximately twice as long as in the pseudopregnant case (31, 42, 49 and 53 days). The levels of cortisol metabolite in the pseudopregnant female (1.35 µg/g) were significantly higher than in the pregnant females (0.33 and 0.24 µg/g) (P<0.05). Similarly, during the breeding season, the levels of estradiol-17β metabolite in the pseudopregnant female (2.18 µg/g) were significantly higher than those in the pregnant females (0.81 and 0.85 µg/g) (P<0.05). Unlike cortisol the average levels of estradiol-17β during the breeding season were independent of reproductive success.
The hormone levels may also be related to housing conditions and the resulting reproductive success in female leopards. The female housed with a male during the non-breeding season had high levels of cortisol metabolites and low levels of estradiol-17β in the breeding season, and failed to become pregnant. This indicates that housing conditions in snow leopards may be an important factor for normal endocrine secretion and resulting breeding success.
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.
Lyngdoh, S., Shrotriya, S., Goyal, S. P., Clements, H., Hayward, M. W., Habib, B. (2014). Prey Preferences of the Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia): Regional Diet Specificity Holds Global Significance for Conservation. Plos One, 9(2), 1–11.
Abstract: The endangered snow leopard is a large felid that is distributed over 1.83 million km2 globally. Throughout its range it relies on a limited number of prey species in some of the most inhospitable landscapes on the planet where high rates of human persecution exist for both predator and prey. We reviewed 14 published and 11 unpublished studies pertaining to snow leopard diet throughout its range. We calculated prey consumption in terms of frequency of occurrence and biomass consumed based on 1696 analysed scats from throughout the snow leopard’s range. Prey biomass consumed was calculated based on the Ackerman’s linear correction factor. We identified four distinct physiographic and snow leopard prey type zones, using cluster analysis that had unique prey assemblages and had key prey characteristics which supported snow leopard occurrence there. Levin’s index showed the snow leopard had a specialized dietary niche breadth. The main prey of the snow leopard were Siberian ibex (Capra sibrica), blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), argali (Ovis ammon) and marmots (Marmota spp). The significantly preferred prey species of snow leopard weighed 5565 kg, while the preferred prey weight range of snow leopard was 36–76 kg with a significant preference for Siberian ibex and blue sheep. Our meta-analysis identified critical dietary resources for snow leopards throughout their distribution and illustrates the importance of understanding regional variation in species ecology; particularly prey species
that have global implications for conservation.
Sharma, K., Bayrakcismith, R., Tumursukh, L., Johansson, O., Sevger, P., McCarthy, T., Mishra, C. (2014). Vigorous Dynamics Underlie a Stable Population of the Endangered Snow Leopard Panthera uncia in Tost Mountains, South Gobi, Mongolia. Plos One, 9(7).
Abstract: Population monitoring programmes and estimation of vital rates are key to understanding the mechanisms of population growth, decline or stability, and are important for effective conservation action. We report, for the first time, the population trends and vital rates of the endangered snow leopard based on camera trapping over four years in the Tost Mountains, South Gobi, Mongolia. We used robust design multi-season mark-recapture analysis to estimate the trends in abundance, sex ratio, survival probability and the probability of temporary emigration and immigration for adult and young snow leopards. The snow leopard population remained constant over most of the study period, with no apparent growth (l = 1.08+20.25). Comparison of model results with the ‘‘known population’’ of radio-collared snow leopards suggested
high accuracy in our estimates. Although seemingly stable, vigorous underlying dynamics were evident in this population, with the adult sex ratio shifting from being male-biased to female-biased (1.67 to 0.38 males per female) during the study. Adult survival probability was 0.82 (SE+20.08) and that of young was 0.83 (SE+20.15) and 0.77 (SE +20.2) respectively, before and after the age of 2 years. Young snow leopards showed a high probability of temporary emigration and immigration (0.6, SE +20.19 and 0.68, SE +20.32 before and after the age of 2 years) though not the adults (0.02 SE+20.07). While the current female-bias in the population and the number of cubs born each year seemingly render the study population safe, the vigorous dynamics suggests that the situation can change quickly. The reduction in the proportion of
male snow leopards may be indicative of continuing anthropogenic pressures. Our work reiterates the importance of monitoring both the abundance and population dynamics of species for effective conservation.
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.
Alexander, J., S., Gopalaswamy, A., M., Shi, K., Hughes, J., Riordan, P. (2016). Patterns of Snow Leopard Site Use in an Increasingly Human-Dominated Landscape. PLoS ONE, , 1–15.
Abstract: Human population growth and concomitant increases in demand for natural resources pose threats to many wildlife populations. The landscapes used by the endangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia) and their prey is increasingly subject to major changes in land use. We aimed to assess the influence of 1) key human activities, as indicated by the presence of mining and livestock herding, and 2) the presence of a key prey species, the blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), on probability of snow leopard site use across the landscape. In Gansu Province, China, we conducted sign surveys in 49 grid cells, each of 16 km2 in size, within a larger area of 3392 km2. We analysed the data using likelihood-based habitat occupancy models that explicitly account for imperfect detection and spatial auto-correlation between survey transect segments. The model-averaged estimate of snow leopard occupancy was high [0.75 (SE 0.10)], but only marginally higher than the naïve estimate (0.67). Snow leop- ard segment-level probability of detection, given occupancy on a 500 m spatial replicate, was also high [0.68 (SE 0.08)]. Prey presence was the main determinant of snow leopard site use, while human disturbances, in the form of mining and herding, had low predictive power. These findings suggest that snow leopards continue to use areas very close to such disturbances, as long as there is sufficient prey. Improved knowledge about the effect of human activity on large carnivores, which require large areas and intact prey populations, is urgently needed for conservation planning at the local and global levels. We highlight a number of methodological considerations that should guide the design of such research.
Shrestha, B., Aihartza, J., Kindlmann. (2018). Diet and prey selection by snow leopards in the Nepalese Himalayas. PLoS ONE, , 1–18.
Abstract: Visual attractiveness and rarity often results in large carnivores being adopted as flagship
species for stimulating conservation awareness. Their hunting behaviour and prey selection
can affect the population dynamics of their prey, which in turn affects the population dynamics
of these large carnivores. Therefore, our understanding of their trophic ecology and foraging
strategies is important for predicting their population dynamics and consequently for
developing effective conservation programs. Here we concentrate on an endangered species
of carnivores, the snow leopard, in the Himalayas. Most previous studies on snow leopard
diet lack information on prey availability and/or did not genetically check, whether the
identification of snow leopard scats is correct, as their scats are similar to those of other
carnivores. We studied the prey of snow leopard in three Himalayan regions in Nepal
(Sagarmatha National Park (SNP), Lower Mustang (LM) and Upper Manang (UM) in the
Annapurna Conservation Area, during winter and summer in 2014�2016. We collected 268
scats along 139.3 km linear transects, of which 122 were genetically confirmed to belong to
snow leopard. Their diet was identified by comparing hairs in scats with our reference collection
of the hairs of potential prey. We determined prey availability using 32�48 camera-traps
and 4,567 trap nights. In the SNP, the most frequent prey in snow leopard faeces was the
Himalayan tahr in both winter and summer. In LM and UM, its main prey was blue sheep in
winter, but yak and goat in summer. In terms of relative biomass consumed, yak was the
main prey everywhere in both seasons. Snow leopard preferred large prey and avoided
small prey in summer but not in winter, with regional differences. It preferred domestic to
wild prey only in winter, and in SNP. Unlike most other studies carried out in the same area,
our study uses genetic methods for identifying the source of the scat. Studies solely based
on visual identification of samples may be strongly biased. Diet studies based on frequency
of occurrence of prey tend to overestimate the importance of small prey, which may be consumed
more often, but contribute less energy than large prey. However, even assessments
based on prey biomass are unlikely to be accurate as we do not know whether the actual
size of the prey consumed corresponds to the average size used to calculate the biomass
eaten. For example, large adults may be too difficult to catch and therefore mostly young animals are consumed, whose weight is much lower. We show that snow leopard consumes
a diverse range of prey, which varies both regionally and seasonally. We conclude that in
order to conserve snow leopards it is also necessary to conserve its main wild species of
prey, which will reduce the incidence of losses of livestock.
Hanson, J. H., Schutgens, M., Leader-Williams, N. (2019). What factors best explain attitudes to snow leopards in the Nepal Himalayas? PLoS ONE, , 1–19.
Abstract: The snow leopard Panthera uncia is a vulnerable wild felid native to mountainous regions of 12 Asian countries. It faces numerous overlapping threats, including killings by herders retaliating against livestock losses, the illegal wildlife trade, loss of prey and habitat, infra- structure, energy and mining developments, and climate change. The species ranges over large territories that often lie outside of protected areas (PA), so coexistence with human populations across its range is key to its persistence. Human attitudes to snow leopards may be an important factor to consider in reducing overlapping threats to this species. How- ever, this nexus has not been widely studied to date. Attitudes to snow leopard conserva- tion, including actors and interventions, may also be a significant aspect of coexistence. These have also received limited empirical attention. This study therefore explored human attitudes to snow leopards and to snow leopard conservation, the motivations for these atti- tudes and the individual factors that best explained them. Using systematic sampling, a quantitative questionnaire was administered to 705 households at two sites in the Nepal Himalayas: Sagarmatha National Park, with a less decentralised governance model, and Annapurna Conservation Area, with a more decentralised model. Linear regression models were the main form of analysis. Based on these, attitudes to snow leopard conservation emerged as the strongest influence on local attitudes to snow leopards, and vice versa. This was true in both PAs, despite their differing management regimes. Other important explana- tory factors included numbers of livestock owned, years of education, household livelihoods and age. Furthermore, a positive intrinsic motivation was the most common reason given by respondents to explain their attitudes to both snow leopards and snow leopard conservation. These findings demonstrate that, in addition to the usual suite of factors that influence atti- tudes to a species, the way in which its conservation is pursued and perceived also needs consideration. How the snow leopard is conserved may strongly influence its coexistence with local communities.
Watts, S. W., McCarthy, T. M., Namgail, T. (2019). Modelling potential habitat for snow leopards (Panthera uncia) in
Abstract: The snow leopard Panthera uncia is an elusive species
inhabiting some of the most remote and inaccessible tracts of Central
and South Asia. It is difficult to determine its distribution and
density pattern, which are crucial for developing conservation
strategies. Several techniques for species detection combining camera
traps with remote sensing and geographic information systems have been
developed to model the habitat of such cryptic and low-density species
in challenging terrains. Utilising presence-only data from camera traps
and direct observations, alongside six environmental variables
(elevation, aspect, ruggedness, distance to water, land cover, and prey
habitat suitability), we assessed snow leopard habitat suitability
across Ladakh in northern India. This is the first study to model snow
leopard distribution both in India and utilising direct observation
data. Results suggested that elevation and ruggedness are the two most
influential environmental variables for snow leopard habitat
suitability, with highly suitable habitat having an elevation range of
2,800 m to 4,600 m and ruggedness of 450 m to 1,800 m. Our habitat
suitability map estimated approximately 12% of Ladakh’s geographical
area (c. 90,000 km2) as highly suitable and 18% as medium suitability.
We found that 62.5% of recorded livestock depredation along with over
half of all livestock corrals (54%) and homestays (58%) occurred within
highly suitable snow leopard habitat. Our habitat suitability model can
be used to assist in allocation of conservation resources by targeting
construction of livestock corrals to areas of high habitat suitability
and promoting ecotourism programs in villages in highly suitable snow