Samelius, G., Suryawanshi, K., Frank, J., Agvaantseren, B., Baasandamba, E., Mijiddorj, T., Johansson, O., Tumursukh, L., Mishra, C. (2020). Keeping predators out: testing fences to reduce livestock depredation at night-time corrals. Oryx, , 1–7.
Abstract: Livestock depredation by large carnivores is a global conservation challenge, and mitigation measures to reduce livestock losses are crucial for the coexistence of large carnivores and people. Various measures are employed to reduce livestock depredation but their effectiveness has rarely been tested. In this study, we tested the effectiveness of tall fences to reduce livestock losses to snow leopards Panthera uncia and wolves Canis lupus at night-time corrals at the winter camps of livestock herders in the Tost Mountains in southern Mongolia. Self-reported livestock losses at the fenced corrals were reduced from a mean loss of 3.9 goats and sheep per family and winter prior to the study to zero losses in the two winters of the study. In contrast, self-reported livestock losses in winter pastures, and during the rest of the year, when herders used different camps, remained high, which indicates that livestock losses were reduced because of the fences, not because of temporal variation in predation pressure. Herder attitudes towards snow leopards were positive and remained positive during the study, whereas attitudes towards wolves, which attacked livestock also in summer when herders moved out on the steppes, were negative and worsened during the study. This study showed that tall fences can be very effective at reducing night-time losses at corrals and we conclude that fences can be an important tool for snow leopard conservation and for facilitating the coexistence of snow leopards and people.
Poyarkov, A. D., Munkhtsog, B., Korablev, M. P., Kuksin, A. N., Alexandrov, D. Y., Chistopolova, M. D., Hernandez-Blanco, J. A., Munkhtogtokh, O., Karnaukhov, A. S., Lkhamsuren, N., Bayaraa, M., Jackson, R. M., Maheshwari, A., Rozhnov, V. V. (2020). Assurance of the existence of a trans-boundary population of the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) at Tsagaanshuvuut – Tsagan- Shibetu SPA at the Mongolia-Russia border. Integrative Zoology, (15), 224–231.
Abstract: The existence of a trans-boundary population of the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) that inhabits the massifs of Tsagaanshuvuut (Mongolia) – Tsagan-Shibetu (Russia) was determined through non-invasive genetic analysis of scat samples and by studying the structure of territory use by a collared female individual. The genetic analysis included species identification of samples through sequencing of a fragment of the cytochrome b gene and individual identification using a panel of 8 microsatellites. The home range of a female snow leopard marked with a satellite Global Positioning System (GPS) collar was represented by the minimum convex polygon method (MCP) 100, the MCP 95 method and the fixed kernel 95 method. The results revealed insignificant genetic differentiation between snow leopards that inhabit both massifs (minimal fixation index [FST]), and the data testify to the unity of the cross-border group. Moreover, 5 common individuals were identified from Mongolian and Russian territories. This finding clearly shows that their home range includes territories of both countries. In addition, regular movement of a collared snow leopard in Mongolia and Russia confirmed the existence of a cross-border snow leopard group. These data support that trans-boundary conservation is important for snow leopards in both countries. We conclude that it is crucial for Russia to study the northern range of snow leopards in Asia.
Johansson, O., Samelius, G., Wikberg, E, Chapron, G., Mishra, C., Low, M. (2020). Identification errors in camera- trap studies result in systematic population overestimation. Scientific Reports, 10(6393), 1–10.
Abstract: Reliable assessments of animal abundance are key for successful conservation of endangered species. For elusive animals with individually-unique markings, camera-trap surveys are a benchmark standard for estimating local and global population abundance. Central to the reliability of resulting abundance estimates is the assumption that individuals are accurately identified from photographic captures. To quantify the risk of individual misidentification and its impact on population abundance estimates we performed an experiment under controlled conditions in which 16 captive snow leopards (Panthera uncia) were camera-trapped on 40 occasions and eight observers independently identified individuals and recaptures. Observers misclassified 12.5% of all capture occasions, resulting in systematically inflated population abundance estimates on average by one third (mean ± SD = 35 ± 21%). Our results show that identifying individually-unique individuals from camera-trap photos may not be as reliable as previously believed, implying that elusive and endangered species could be less abundant than current estimates indicate.
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.
Suryawanshi, K. R., Khanyari, M., Sharma, K., Lkhagvajav, P., Mishra, C. (2019). Sampling bias in snow leopard population estimation studies. Population Eccology, , 1–9.
Abstract: Accurate assessments of the status of threatened species and their conservation
planning require reliable estimation of their global populations and robust monitoring
of local population trends. We assessed the adequacy and suitability of studies
in reliably estimating the global snow leopard (Panthera uncia) population. We
compiled a dataset of all the peer-reviewed published literature on snow leopard
population estimation. Metadata analysis showed estimates of snow leopard density
to be a negative exponential function of area, suggesting that study areas have generally
been too small for accurate density estimation, and sampling has often been
biased towards the best habitats. Published studies are restricted to six of the
12 range countries, covering only 0.3�0.9% of the presumed global range of the
species. Re-sampling of camera trap data from a relatively large study site
(c.1684 km2) showed that small-sized study areas together with a bias towards
good quality habitats in existing studies may have overestimated densities by up to
five times. We conclude that current information is biased and inadequate for generating
a reliable global population estimate of snow leopards. To develop a rigorous
and useful baseline and to avoid pitfalls, there is an urgent need for
(a) refinement of sampling and analytical protocols for population estimation of
snow leopards (b) agreement and coordinated use of standardized sampling protocols
amongst researchers and governments across the range, and (c) sampling
larger and under-represented areas of the snow leopard's global range.
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.
Jamtsho, Y., Katel, O. (2019). Livestock depredation by snow leopard and Tibetan wolf: Implications for herders� livelihoods in Wangchuck Centennial National Park, Bhutan. Springer Open, (9:1), 1–10.
Abstract: Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a serious problem in many parts of the world, and Bhutan�s Wangchuck Centennial
National Park (WCNP) is no exception. Located in the remote alpine areas of the eastern Himalaya, wildlife species
such as snow leopard (SL) and Tibetan wolf (TW) are reported to kill livestock in many parts of the Park. Such
depredation is believed to have affected the livelihoods of high-altitude herding communities, resulting in conflicts
between them. This study provides analysis on the extent of livestock depredation by wildlife predators such as SL
and TW and examines its implications for the livelihoods of herding communities of Choekhortoe and Dhur regions
of WCNP. Using semi-structured questionnaires, all herders (n = 38) in the study area were interviewed. The questions
pertained to livestock population, frequency of depredation and income lost due to depredation in the last five years
from 2012 to 2016. This study recorded 2,815 livestock heads in the study area, with an average herd size of 74.1 stock.
The average herd size holding showed a decreasing trend over the years, and one of the reasons cited by the herders
is depredation by SL and TW and other predators. This loss equated to an average annual financial loss equivalent to
10.2% (US$837) of their total per capita cash income. Such losses have resulted in negative impacts on herders�
livelihood; e.g. six herders (2012-2016) even stopped rearing livestock and resorted to an alternate source of cash
income. The livestock intensification programmes, including pasture improvement through allowing controlled
burning, and financial compensation, may be some potential short-term solutions to reduce conflict between herders
and predators. Issuing permits for cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) collection only to the herders and instilling the
sense of stewardship to highland herders may be one of the long-term solutions.
Kalashnikova, Y. A., Karnaukhov, A. S., Dubinin, M. Y., Poyarkov, A. D., Rozhnov, V. V. (2019). POTENTIAL HABITAT OF SNOW LEOPARD (PANTHERA UNCIA, FELINAE) IN SOUTH SIBERIA AND ADJACENT TERRITORIES BASED ON THE MAXIMUM ENTROPY DISTRIBUTION MODEL.98(3), 332–342.
Abstract: The snow leopard is an endangered large felid inhabiting highlands of 12 Asian countries. It is distributed
across vast territories and adequate modern methods are required for mapping its potential habitats. The goal
of the present study is to create a model of snow leopard potential habitat within the northern part of its range
in Russia (and adjacent territories of Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan). More than 5 years of observations
(total number of presence points = 449), environmental variables and the maximum entropy distribution
method (Maxent) are used. The resulting map demonstrates that a suitable habitat (probability of the animal�s
presence between 0.5 and 1) of the northern population of snow leopard in Russia occupies 16500 km2
with a buffer of transient territories (probability between 0.25 and 0.49) covering 32800 km2. Most of a suitable
habitat within the study area is associated with the Altai Mountains, Western Sayan Mountains, Sangilen
Plateau, Tsagan-Shibetu and Shapshal. One third of the suitable habitat lies within areas of a varying protection
status. The results of modeling are of importance both for scientists and conservation managers, as they
allow for leopard occurrence to be predicted, supporting research on and the conservation of the species.
Janjua, S., Peters, J. L., Weckworth, B., Abbas, F. I., Bahn, Volker, Johansson, O., Rooney, T.P. (2019). Improving our conservation genetic toolkit: ddRAD-seq for SNPs in snow leopards. Conservation Genetic Resource, .
Abstract: Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are an enigmatic, high-altitude species whose challenging habitat, low population densities
and patchy distribution have presented challenges for scientists studying its biology, population structure, and genetics.
Molecular scatology brings a new hope for conservation efforts by providing valuable insights about snow leopards, including
their distribution, population densities, connectivity, habitat use, and population structure for assigning conservation units.
However, traditional amplification of microsatellites from non-invasive sources of DNA are accompanied by significant
genotyping errors due to low DNA yield and poor quality. These errors can lead to incorrect inferences in the number of
individuals and estimates of genetic diversity. Next generation technologies have revolutionized the depth of information
we can get from a species' genome. Here we used double digest restriction-site associated DNA sequencing (ddRAD-seq),
a well-established technique for studying non-model organisms, to develop a reference sequence library for snow leopards
using blood samples from five Mongolian individuals. Our final data set reveals 4504 loci with a median size range of 221 bp.
We identified 697 SNPs and low nucleotide diversity (0.00032) within these loci. However, the probability that two random
individuals will share identical genotypes is about 10-168. We developed probes for DNA capture using this sequence library
which can now be used for genotyping individuals from scat samples. Genetic data from ddRAD-seq will be invaluable for
conducting population and landscape scale studies that can inform snow leopard conservation strategies.
Maheshwari, A., Sathyakumar, S. (2019). Snow leopard stewardship in mitigating human-wildlife conflict in Hemis National Park, Ladakh, India. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, , 1–5.
Abstract: Among large predators, snow leopards (Panthera uncia) and co-predators (e.g., wolves
Canis lupus, lynx Lynx lynx) often cause economic losses, engendering animosity from
local communities in the mountain ecosystem across south and central Asia (Din et al.,
2017; Jackson & Lama, 2016; Maheshwari, Takpa, Kujur, & Shawl, 2010; Schaller, 2012).
These economic losses range from around US $50 to nearly $300 per household,
a significant sum given per capita annual incomes of $250 – $400 (Jackson & Wangchuk,
2004; Mishra, 1997). Recent efforts such as improved livestock husbandry practices
(predator-proof livestock corrals – closed night shelters with covered roof with wiremesh
and a closely fitting iron or wooden door that can be securely locked at night) and
community-based ecotourism (e.g., home stays, guides, porters, pack animals, campsites)
are providing alternative livelihood opportunities and mitigating large carnivores – human
conflict in the snow leopard habitats (Hanson, Schutgens, & Baral, 2018; Jackson, 2015;
Jackson & Lama, 2016; Vannelli, Hampton, Namgail, & Black, 2019). Snow leopard-based
ecotourism provides an opportunity to secure livelihoods and reduce poverty of the
communities living in ecotourism sites across Ladakh (Chandola, 2012; Jackson, 2015).
To understand the role of snow leopard-based ecotourism in uplifting the financial profile
of local communities, mitigating large carnivore – human conflict and eventually changing
attitudes towards large carnivores in Hemis National Park, Ladakh, India, we compared
the estimated financial gains of a snow leopard-based ecotourism to stated livestock
predation losses by snow leopards and wolves.