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Title: Pastoral practices, pressures, Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice Open Access and human-wildlife relations in high altitude rangelands of eastern Himalaya: A case study of the Dokpa pastoralists of North Sikkim

Author: Luxom, N. M., Singh, R., Theengh, L., Shrestha, P., Sharma, R. K.

Abstract: The pastoral practices of the Dokpa herders of North Sikkim have been transforming in response to the geo-political and socio-economic changes in the region. Against the backdrop of these changes, this study aims to understand the current state of pastoralism in North Sikkim with three specific objectives: (i) to understand the current rangeland management practices of the Dokpa community; (ii) to examine the social, political and ecological stresses to continuity of traditional pastoral livelihoods; and (iii) to document the baseline on human-wildlife relations. We focused on one of the two subset populations of Dokpa herders of North Sikkim and, using a mixed-methods approach, conducted 12 semi-structured interviews, four key respondent interviews and two focused group discussions. The resource use by the Dokpas is unique, and unlike the rest of the Himalayan range, they access the high-altitude pastures in winters and the lower ones in summer. Pastures in the higher altitudes experience heavier winds, which leads to lower levels of snow deposition — thus ensuring access to dried pasture forage for livestock during the lean season. The decisions pertaining to resource management are taken by the head of the local institution Dzumsa, the Pipon. Primary stresses to the continuation of traditional pastoral practices are fragmentation of pastureland post- Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the consequent establishment of armed forces, livestock depredation by free-ranging dogs followed by wild predators and continued socio-economic marginalisation of the pastoralists under a supposedly egalitarian institutional regime. Extreme climatic events in the recent past have also contributed to significant livestock loss. Dokpa transhumant practices are on an overall decline, with most members of the younger generation shifting to non-herding livelihoods. The availability of alternate livelihood options with the improved connectivity, access to education and development of the tourism industry has led to changing aspirations of the younger generations. In only two of the twelve households we surveyed, the younger generation continues herding, while the rest have moved to the cities and towns. In terms of human-wildlife relations, the respondents mostly hold a positive attitude towards wildlife and conservation actions despite livestock predation by wild predators, since the free-ranging dogs cause the highest livestock loss. With the inputs from the Dokpas, we provide recommendations towards a facilitative environment for the continuation of the traditional herding in the region, which is critical for the survival of pastoralism in North Sikkim, presently hinged on less than two dozen of elderly Dokpas.

URL: https://snowleopardnetwork.org/b/show.php?record=1700

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Title: Spatial density pattern of Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica) in Pakistan

Author: Ahmad, S., Ali, H., Asif, M., Khan, T, Din, N., Rehman, E. U., Hameed, S., Din, J. U., Nawaz, M. A.

Abstract: Mountain ungulates perform a key role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems as they are the primary consumers of vegetation and prey for large predators. The mountain ranges of northern Pakistan are home to six species of mountain ungulates, and the Himalayan ibex (Capra sibirica), hereafter ibex, is the most abundant among them. This study was conducted in three administrative regions of northern Pakistan, viz. Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), to generate a range-wide density pattern map of ibex. A double-observer survey was conducted in 25 study sites during 2018–2021 across the ibex distribution range, covering an area of about 35,307 km2, by walking transects totaling 1647 km. Within the ibex range where the survey was not conducted due to financial and logistical constraints, we obtained species population information from local wildlife departments’ most recent annual survey data. The aim was to generate a density map for the entire ibex range. Using the BBRe-capture package in program R, we estimated an ibex population of 7639 (95 % CI) with a mean density of 0.21/km2 in the surveyed area. Combining with the secondary data from un-surveyed areas, the total population estimate for the country came to 10,242 ibex. The largest population densities were observed in four valleys (Shimshal, Gulkin-Hussaini, Khyber, and Khunjerab) of the Karakoram-Pamir range, followed by the Hindu Kush range (Chitral Wildlife Division [WD]). The central and eastern parts of the Karakoram range had moderate to low densities, while the Himalayan range (e.g., Astore Valley) supported a small population. The mean herd size was 15 individuals (range: 5–41), and the average detection probability of observers A and B was 0.69 and 0.48, respectively. The average male and young ratios per 100 females were estimated to be 75 and 81, respectively. The range-wide density map developed during the study provided an evidence for the impact of trophy hunting programs and an objective tool for range-wide conservation planning of the species.

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Title: How Snow Leopards Share the Same Landscape with Tibetan Agro-pastoral Communities in the Chinese Himalayas

Author: Changxi, X., Bai, D., Lambert, J. P., Li, Y., Cering, L., Gong, Z., Riordan, P., Shi, K.

Abstract: The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) inhabits a human-altered alpine landscape and is often tolerated by residents in regions where the dominant religion is Tibetan Buddhism, including in Qomolangma NNR on the northern side of the Chinese Himalayas. Despite these positive attitudes, many decades of rapid economic development and population growth can cause increasing disturbance to the snow leopards, altering their habitat use patterns and ultimately impacting their conservation. We adopted a dynamic landscape ecology perspective and used multi-scale technique and occupancy model to better understand snow leopard habitat use and coexistence with humans in an 825 km2 communal landscape. We ranked eight hypothetical models containing potential natural and anthropogenic drivers of habitat use and compared them between summer and winter seasons within a year. HABITAT was the optimal model in winter, whereas ANTHROPOGENIC INFLUENCE was the top ranking in summer (AICcw≤2). Over all, model performance was better in the winter than in the summer, suggesting that perhaps some latent summer covariates were not measured. Among the individual variables, terrain ruggedness strongly affected snow leopard habitat use in the winter, but not in the summer. Univariate modeling suggested snow leopards prefer to use rugged land in winter with a broad scale (4000 m focal radius) but with a lesser scale in summer (30 m); Snow leopards preferred habitat with a slope of 22° at a scale of 1000 m throughout both seasons, which is possibly correlated with prey occurrence. Furthermore, all covariates mentioned above showed inextricable ties with human activities (presence of settlements and grazing intensity). Our findings show that multiple sources of anthropogenic activity have complex connections with snow leopard habitat use, even under low human density when anthropogenic activities are sparsely distributed across a vast landscape. This study is also valuable for habitat
use research in the future, especially regarding covariate selection for finite sample sizes in inaccessible terrain.

URL: https://snowleopardnetwork.org/b/show.php?record=1698

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Title: Assessing the potential of snow leopard tourism-related products and services in the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Author: Hanson, J. H., Schutgens, M., Baral, N., Leader-Williams, N.

Abstract: Conservation Enterprise is increasingly promoted to support the conservation of species and landscapes through incentives, such as ecotourism, including in the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), Nepal. Yet the elusive behaviour of snow leopards here limits opportunities for conservation enterprise, particularly those linked to conventional ecotourism forms. Furthermore, the potential to explicitly link local snow leopard-friendly livestock production systems with the tourist market in the area, via eco-certified livestock products, has not been investigated. Therefore, this paper aims to explore the interest, from supply and demand perspectives, in introducing snow leopard ecotourism services and eco-certified products into the ACA tourist market. Questionnaire data were gathered from 406 tourists and 403 local residents. Our results, of interest to managers and researchers alike, show that there is potential to generate funds and support for both snow leopard conservati
on and community development, and add to the literature on utilising enterprise initiatives as conservation tools.

URL: https://snowleopardnetwork.org/b/show.php?record=1696

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Title: Density Pattern of Flare-Horned Markhor (Capra falconeri) in Northern Pakistan

Author: Ahmad, S., Rehman, E. U., Ali, H., Din, N., Haider, J., Din, J. U., Nawaz, M. A.

Abstract: Wild ungulates play vital roles in maintaining a balanced ecosystem through herbivory and are also an important determinant of carnivores’ density. The flare-horned markhor (Capra falconeri) is a threatened wild goat distributed across the mountain ranges of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The remote terrain and fragmented population limit our understanding of the population ecology of markhor, though knowledge of the target species population is vital for making informed management decisions. Therefore, the current study was designed to determine the markhor population across their range in Northern Pakistan and to evaluate the efforts made by the government and non-government organizations for the conservation of markhor. Double-observer surveys were conducted during 2019–2021 in nine major watersheds of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan covering an area of 4664 km2. Secondary data were collected for unassessed areas to gain a holistic overview of the markhor population and density in the region. Results revealed a markhor population of 7579, with a density of 0.30 animals per km2 in Northern Pakistan. Our analysis of the double-observer data through the Bayesian behavioral capture–recapture model estimated a population of 5993 individuals (95% CI) of markhor across
nine study sites, with a density of 1.28 animals per km . A review of secondary data revealed that a population of about 1586 was present in the un-surveyed area (20,033.33 km2), with a density of 0.08 per km . A total of 146 groups of markhor were counted, with a mean group size of 23 (3–58) individuals. There were 109 males and 108 young per 100 females in the population. Among 1936 recorded males, Class I males accounted for 27.74%, followed by Class II (26.45%), Class IV (trophy-size) (23.40%), and Class III (22.42%). The overall detection probability was recorded as 0.87 and 0.68 for the first observer and second observer, respectively. Compared with the past reports, the population of markhor in Northern Pakistan appears to be increasing, particularly in protected areas (PAs) such as national parks and community-controlled hunting areas (CCHAs). Conservation programs, notably trophy hunting and PA networks, appear to be vital in sustaining markhor populations in parts of the species range. We recommend expansion in such programs in the markhor range in order to maintain a viable population of this majestic wild goat in the region.

URL: https://snowleopardnetwork.org/b/show.php?record=1695

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Title: Conservation importance of the strategic, centrally located snow leopard population in the western Himalayas, India: a genetic perspective

Author: Singh, S. K., De, R., Sharma, R., Maheshwari, A., Joshi, B. D., Sharma, D., Sathyakumar, S., Habib, B., Goyal, S. P.

Abstract: The snow leopard population in Union Territory of Ladakh (UTL), India is at the centre of five out of eight mountain ranges within the species’ habitat in the high-mountain Asia. Its strategic location is of immense conservation significance to maintain genetic connectivity and metapopulation dynamics of snow leopards (Panthera uncia). Therefore, we provide the first estimates of the snow leopard’s individual-based spatial genetic characteristics from UTL. Multi-locus genotyping (n = 14 loci) of individuals (n = 19) revealed moderate genetic diversity in the population (mean number of alleles = 5.86 ± 0.55, observed heterozygosity = 0.48 ± 0.05, expected heterozygosity = 0.65 ± 0.03, allelic richness = 2.65 ± 0.15). We did not observe any evidence of population structuring (using STRUCTURE and Factorial Correspondence Analysis) or isolation by distance. However, the clustering approach based on genetic distance (Nei’s standard distance and Cavalli-Sforza and Edwards
distance) and subsequent discriminant analysis of principal components (DAPC) revealed three sub-clusters of related individuals within the study population without any spatial correlates. We observed 1.2% first-order relatives, suggesting sufficient dispersal and panmixia in the UTL population. We observed high fixation index (FIS = 0.26 ± 0.05; 0.17 ± 0.03 upon removing loci with null alleles) and presence of individuals from genetically divergent populations in UTL. Hence, the high positive FIS value could be attributed to both Wahlund effect and inbreeding. Prioritization and effective conservation planning of the UTL population as a source would benefit the global snow leopard population by (i) maintaining connectivity between the Himalayas and the central Asian mountain ranges, and (ii) providing refuge during future climate change-related range contraction.

URL: https://snowleopardnetwork.org/b/show.php?record=1694

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Title: Analysis of provisioning ecosystem services and perceptions of climate change for indigenous communities in the Western Himalayan Gurez Valley, Pakistan

Author: Saeed, U., Arshad, M., Hayat, S., Morelli, T. L., Nawaz, M. A.

Abstract: Climate change is a significant threat to people living in mountainous regions. It is essential to understand how montane communities currently depend especially on the provisioning ecosystem services (ES) and the ways in which climate change will impact these services, so that people can develop relevant adaptation strategies. The ES in the Gurez Valley, in the Western Himalayas of Pakistan, provide a unique opportunity to explore these questions. This understudied area is increasingly exposed not only to climate change but also to the over-exploitation of resources. Hence, this study aimed to (a) identify and value provisioning ES in the region; (b) delineate indigenous communities’ reliance on ES based on valuation; and (c) measure the perceptions of indigenous communities of the impact of climate change on the ES in Gurez Valley. Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were used to classify the provisioning ES by using the ‘Common International Classification on Ecosystem Services’ (CICES) table and applying the ‘Total Economic Valuation (TEV)’ Framework. Results indicate that the indigenous communities are highly dependent on ES, worth 6730 ± 520 USD/ Household (HH)/yr, and perceive climate change as a looming threat to water, crops, and rearing livestock ESS in the Gurez Valley. The total economic value of the provisioning ES is 3.1 times higher than a household’s average income. Medicinal plant collection is a significant source of revenue in the Valley for some households, i.e., worth 766 ± 134.8 USD/HH/yr. The benefits of the sustainable use of ES and of climate change adaptation and mitigation, are culturally, economically, and ecologically substantial for the Western Himalayans.

URL: https://snowleopardnetwork.org/b/show.php?record=1693

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Title: Indigenous governance structures for maintaining an ecosystem service in an agro-pastoral community in the Indian Trans Himalaya

Author: Murali, R., Bijoor, A., Thinley, T., Gurmet, K., Chunit, K., Tobge, R., Thuktan, T., Suryawanshi, K., Nagendra, H., Mishra, C.

Abstract: The majority of the global terrestrial biodiversity occurs on indigenous lands, and biodiversity decline on these lands is relatively slower. Yet, robust understanding of indigenous governance systems for biodiversity and ecosystem services remains a key knowledge gap. We used the socio-ecological systems framework to study the governance of ecosystem services (ES) by an indigenous community in the Village of Kibber in the Trans-Himalayan Mountains of India. Focusing on plant-biomass removal from communal pastures, we identified the main factors shaping local governance using in-depth focal and deliberative group discussions with community members. Notwithstanding inequities of caste and gender, we found that Kibber had a well-functioning, complex, relatively democratic and inclusive system, with all households of the village involved in decision-making related to ES governance. Robust systems of information sharing, monitoring, conflict resolution, and self-organization
played an important role. We found the role of institutional memory sustained by the oracle to be critical in maintaining governance structures. Our work underscores the potential resilience and importance of indigenous systems for the governance of ecosystem services.

URL: https://snowleopardnetwork.org/b/show.php?record=1692

 

 

 

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Title: Wildlife Conservation in the Digital Age

Author: Locke-Jones, J

Abstract: Our understanding of the state of the world’s wildlife is dependent upon data. Without an accurate survey of species populations, our efforts to improve their chances of survival and to limit our impact on their wellbeing will always be limited. Unfortunately, many endangered species live in areas inhospitable to us – and in any case, a human-led survey can only continue for so long before the surveyors need to rest.

URL: https://snowleopardnetwork.org/b/show.php?record=1691

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Title: Effects of free-ranging livestock on occurrence and interspecific interactions of a mammalian community

Author: Salvatori, M., Oberosler, V., Augugliaro, C., Krofel, M., Rovero, F.

Abstract: Mammalian communities inhabiting temperate grasslands are of conservation concern globally, especially in Central Asia, where livestock numbers have dramatically increased in recent decades, leading to overgrazing and land-use change. Yet, how this pervasive presence of livestock herds affects the community of wild mammals remains largely unstudied. We used systematic camera trapping at 216 sites across remote, mountainous areas of the Mongolian Altai Mountains to assess the spatial and temporal patterns of occurrence and the interspecific relationships within a mammalian community that includes different categories of livestock. By adopting a recently proposed multispecies occupancy model that incorporates interspecific correlation in occupancy, we found several statistically strong correlations in occupancy among species pairs, with the majority involving livestock. The sign of such associations was markedly species-dependent, with larger wild species of conservation c
oncern, namely, snow leopard and Siberian ibex, avoiding livestock presence. As predicted, we found evidence of a positive correlation in occupancy between predators and their respective main prey. Contrary to our expectations, a number of intraguild species pairs also showed positive co-occurrence, with no evidence of spatiotemporal niche partitioning. Overall, our study suggests that livestock encroaching into protected areas influences the whole local community of wild mammals. Though pastoralism has coexisted with wildlife for millennia in central Asian grasslands, our findings suggest that policies and practices to decrease the pressure of livestock husbandry on wildlife are needed, with special attention on large species, such as the snow leopard and its wild prey, which seem to be particularly sensitive to this pervasive livestock presence.

URL: https://snowleopardnetwork.org/b/show.php?record=1690