New Article to the Bibliography



Title: Large-scale and fine-grain population structure and genetic diversity of snow leopards (Panthera uncia Schreber, 1776) from the northern and western parts of the range with an emphasis on the Russian population.

Authors:  Korablev, M. P., Poyarkov, A. D., Karnaukhov, A. S., Zvychaynaya, E. Y., Kuksin, A. N., Malykh, S. V., Istomov, S. V., Spitsyn, S. V., Aleksandrov, D. Y.,  Hernandez-Blanco, J. A., Munkhtsog, B., Munkhtogtokh, O., Putintsev, N. I., Vereshchagin, A. S., Becmurody, A.,  Afzunov, S., Rozhnov, V. V.

Abstract: The snow leopard (Panthera uncia Schreber, 1776) population in Russia and Mongolia is situated at the northern edge of the range, where instability of ecological conditions and of prey availability may serve as prerequisites for demographic instability and, consequently, for reducing the genetic diversity. Moreover, this northern area of the species distribution is connected with the western and central parts by only a few small fragments of potential habitats in the Tian-Shan spurs in China and Kazakhstan. Given this structure of the range, the restriction of gene flow between the northern and other regions of snow leopard distribution can be expected. Under these conditions, data on population genetics would be extremely important for assessment of genetic diversity, population structure and gene flow both at regional and large-scale level. To investigate large-scale and fine-grain population structure and levels of genetic diversity we analyzed 108 snow leopards identified from noninvasively collected scat samples from Russia and Mongolia (the northern part of the range) as well as from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (the western part of the range) using panel of eight polymorphic microsatellites. We found low to moderate levels of genetic diversity in the studied populations. Among local habitats, the highest heterozygosity and allelic richness were recorded in Kyrgyzstan (He = 0.66 ± 0.03, Ho = 0.70 ± 0.04, Ar = 3.17) whereas the lowest diversity was found in a periphery subpopulation in Buryatia Republic of Russia (He = 0.41 ± 0.12, Ho = 0.29 ± 0.05, Ar = 2.33). In general, snow leopards from the western range exhibit greater genetic diversity (He = 0.68 ± 0.04, Ho = 0.66 ± 0.03, Ar = 4.95) compared to those from the northern range (He = 0.60 ± 0.06, Ho = 0.49 ± 0.02, Ar = 4.45). In addition, we have identified signs of fragmentation in the northern habitat, which have led to significant genetic divergence between subpopulations in Russia. Multiple analyses of genetic structure support considerable genetic differentiation between the northern and western range parts, which may testify to subspecies subdivision of snow leopards from these regions. The observed patterns of genetic structure are evidence for delineation of several management units within the studied populations, requiring individual approaches for conservation initiatives, particularly related to translocation events. The causes for the revealed patterns of genetic structure and levels of genetic diversity are discussed.


New Article to the Bibliography

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Title: Understanding People’s Relationship With Wildlife in Trans-Himalayan Folklore.

Authors: Bhatia, S., Suryawanshi, K., Redpath, S., Namgail, S., Mishra, C.

Abstract:  People’s views and values for wild animals are often a result of their experiences and traditional knowledge. Local folklore represents a resource that can enable an understanding of the nature of human-wildlife interactions, especially the underlying cultural values. Using archival searches and semi-structured interviews, we collected narratives about the ibex (Capra sibirica) (n = 69), and its predators, the wolf (Canis lupus) (n = 52) and the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) (n = 43), in Ladakh, India. We compared these stories to those of a mythical carnivore called seng ge or snow lion (n = 19), frequently referenced in local Tibetan Buddhist folklore and believed to share many of the traits commonly associated with snow leopards (except for livestock depredation). We then categorized the values along social-cultural, ecological and psychological dimensions. We found that the ibex was predominantly associated with utilitarianism and positive symbolism. Both snow leopard and wolf narratives referenced negative affective and negative symbolic values, though more frequently in the case of wolves. Snow leopard narratives largely focused on utilitarian and ecologistic values. In contrast, snow lion narratives were mostly associated with positive symbolism. Our results suggest that especially for snow leopards and wolves, any potentially positive symbolic associations appeared to be overwhelmed by negative sentiments because of their tendency to prey on livestock, unlike in the case of the snow lion. Since these values reflect people’s real and multifarious interactions with wildlife, we recommend paying greater attention to understanding the overlaps between natural and cultural heritage conservation to facilitate human-wildlife coexistence.


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Title:  Ecosystem Services in a Snow Leopard Landscape: A Comparative Analysis of Two High-elevation National Parks in the Karakoram-Pamir

Authors:  Din, J. U., Nawaz, M. A., Norma-Rashid, Y., Ahmad, F., Hussain, K., Ali, H., Adli, D., S., H.

Abstract:  The high-elevation mountain ecosystems in the Karakoram and Pamir mountain ranges encompass enchanting landscapes, harbor unique biodiversity, and are home to many indigenous pastoral societies that rely on ecosystem services for their survival. However, our understanding of the value of ecosystem services to a household economy is limited. This information is essential in devising sustainable development strategies and thus merits consideration. In this preliminary study, we attempted to assess and compare the value of selected ecosystem services of the Khunjerab and Qurumbar National Parks (KNP and QNP) in the Karakoram–Pamir in northern Pakistan using market-based and value transfer methods. Our results indicated that the economic benefits derived from the 2 high-elevation protected areas were US$ 4.6 million (QNP) and US$ 3.8 million (KNP) per year, translating into US$ 5955 and US$ 8912 per household per year, respectively. The monetary benefits from provisioning services constituted about 93% in QNP and 48% in KNP, which vividly highlights the prominence of the economic benefits generated from the protected areas for the welfare of disadvantaged communities. Together with the regulatory and cultural services valued in this study, the perceived economic impact per household per year was 10–15 times higher than the mean household income per year. Considering the limited livelihood means and escalating poverty experienced by buffer zone communities, these values are substantial. We anticipate that communities’ dependency on resources will contribute to increased degradation of ecosystems. We propose reducing communities’ dependency on natural resources by promoting sustainable alternative livelihood options and recognizing ecosystem services in cost–benefit analyses when formulating future policies.


New Article to the Bibliography

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Title:  Understanding people’s responses toward predators in the Indian Himalaya

Authors:  Bhatia, S., Suryawanshi, K., Redpath, S. M., Mishra, C

Abstract:  Research on human–wildlife interactions has largely focused on the magnitude of wildlife‐caused damage, and the patterns and correlates of human attitudes and behaviors. We assessed the role of five pathways through which various correlates potentially influence human responses toward wild animals, namely, value orientation, social interactions (i.e. social cohesion and support), dependence on resources such as agriculture and livestock, risk perception and nature of interaction with the wild animal. We specifically evaluated their influence on people’s responses toward two large carnivores, the snow leopard Panthera uncia and the wolf Canis lupus in an agropastoral landscape in the Indian Trans‐Himalaya. We found that the nature of the interaction (location, impact and length of time since an encounter or depredation event), and risk perception (cognitive and affective evaluation of the threat posed by the animal) had a significant influence on attitudes and behaviors toward the snow leopard. For wolves, risk perception and social interactions (the relationship of people with local institutions and inter‐community dynamics) were significant. Our findings underscore the importance of interventions that reduce people’s threat perceptions from carnivores, improve their connection with nature and strengthen the conservation capacity of local institutions especially in the context of wolves.


New Article to the Bibliography

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Title: Predicting Habitat Suitability of Snow Leopards in the Western Himalayan Mountains, India

Authors: Singh, R., Krausman, P. R., Pandey, P., Maheshwari, A., Rawal, R. S., Sharma, S., Shekhar, S.Abstract:  The population of snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is declining across their range, due to poaching, habitat fragmentation, retaliatory killing, and a decrease of wild prey species. Obtaining information on rare and cryptic predators living in remote and rugged terrain is important for making conservation and management strategies. We used the Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) ecological niche modeling framework to predict the potential habitat of snow leopards across the western Himalayan region, India. The model was developed using 34 spatial species occurrence points in the western Himalaya, and 26 parameters including, prey species distribution, temperature, precipitation, land use and land cover (LULC), slope, aspect, terrain ruggedness and altitude. Thirteen variables contributed 98.6% towards predicting the distribution of snow leopards. The area under the curve (AUC) score was high (0.994) for the training data from our model, which indicates pre- dictive ability of the model. The model predicted that there was 42432 km2 of potential habitat for snow leop- ards in the western Himalaya region. Protected status was available for 11247 km2 (26.5%), but the other 31185 km2 (73.5%) of potential habitat did not have any protected status. Thus, our approach is useful for predicting the distribution and suitable habitats and can focus field surveys in selected areas to save resources, increase survey success, and improve conservation efforts for snow leopards.

New Article to the Bibliography


Title: Implications of landscape genetics and connectivity of snow
leopard in the Nepalese Himalayas for its conservation.

Authors: Shrestha, B., Kindlmann, P.

Abstract:  The snow leopard is one of the most endangered large mammals.
Its population, already low, is declining, most likely due to the
consequences of human activity, including a reduction in the size and
number of suitable habitats. With climate change, habitat loss may
escalate, because of an upward shift in the tree line and concomitant
loss of the alpine zone, where the snow leopard lives. Migration between
suitable areas, therefore, is important because a decline in abundance
in these areas may result in inbreeding, fragmentation of populations,
reduction in genetic variation due to habitat fragmentation, loss of
connectivity, bottlenecks or genetic drift. Here we use our data
collected in Nepal to determine the areas suitable for snow leopards, by
using habitat suitability maps, and describe the genetic structure of
the snow leopard within and between these areas. We also determine the
influence of landscape features on the genetic structure of its
populations and reveal corridors connecting suitable areas. We conclude
that it is necessary to protect these natural corridors to maintain the
possibility of snow leopards’ migration between suitable areas, which
will enable gene flow between the diminishing populations and thus
maintain a viable metapopulation of snow leopards.


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Title: Patterns of human interaction with snow leopard and co-predators in the Mongolian western Altai: Current issues and perspectives

Authors: Augugliaro, C., Christe, P., Janchivlamdan, C., Baymanday, H., Zimmermann, F.

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.


Title: Conservation and people: Towards an ethical code of conduct for the use of camera traps in wildlife research

Authors: Sharma, K., Fiechter, M., George, T., Young, J., Alexander, J. S., Bijoor, Suryawanshi, K., Mishra, C.

Abstract: 1. Camera trapping is a widely employed tool in wildlife research, used to estimate animal abundances, understand animal movement, assess species richness and under- stand animal behaviour. In addition to images of wild animals, research cameras often record human images, inadvertently capturing behaviours ranging from innocuous actions to potentially serious crimes.
2. With the increasing use of camera traps, there is an urgent need to reflect on how researchers should deal with human images caught on cameras. On the one hand, it is important to respect the privacy of individuals caught on cameras, while, on the other hand, there is a larger public duty to report illegal activity. This creates ethical dilemmas for researchers.
3. Here, based on our camera-trap research on snow leopards Panthera uncia, we outline a general code of conduct to help improve the practice of camera trap based research and help researchers better navigate the ethical-legal tightrope of this important research tool.


Snow Leopard researchers call for ethical standards for wildlife camera trapping

Snow Leopard Trust press release via Mirage News

New research published in Ecological Evidence and Solutions explores the ethical and legal responsibilities of capturing humans on wildlife camera traps.

Camera traps set out for wildlife research often capture images of people including local community members and suspected poachers. A new article, published today in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Ecological Evidence and Solutions, calls for respecting the privacy of people photographed by remote cameras, and also lays out principles for fulfilling the public responsibility of reporting illegal activity caught on wildlife cameras.

New Article added to the Bibliography

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Title: What Factors Predispose Households in Trans-Himalaya (Central Nepal) to Livestock Predation by Snow Leopards?

Authors: Tiwari, M. P., Devkota, B. P., Jackson, R. M., Chhetri, B. B. K., Bagale, S.

Abstract: Livestock depredation across the trans-Himalaya causes significant economic losses to pastoralist communities. Quantification of livestock predation and the assessment of variables associated with depredation are crucial for designing effective long-term mitigation measures. We investigated the patterns and factors of livestock depredation by snow leopards (Panthera uncia) using semi-structured questionnaires targeting herders in the Narphu valley of the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal. During the two years (2017/18 and 2018/19), 73.9% of the households interviewed (n = 65) lost livestock to snow leopards, with an annual average loss of two livestock per household. Of the total depredation attributed to snow leopards, 55.4% were yak (mainly female: 79%), 31.7% goat, 6.8% sheep, 3.2% horse and 2.8% cattle. Results from applying Generalized Linear Mixed Models (GLMMs) revealed the total number of livestock owned and the number of larger bodied livestock species as the main explanatory covariates explaining livestock depredation. Forty-one (41%) of all herders considered snow leopard’s preference for domestic livestock as the main factor in livestock predation, whereas only 5% perceived poor herding practice as the main reason for the loss. Our study found poor and changing herding practices in the valley, whereby 71% herders reported careful herding as a solution to snow leopard depredation, and 15% of herders considered the complete extermination of snow leopards as the best solution to the problem. Tolerance levels and awareness among herders towards snow leopard conservation is increasing, mainly due to the Buddhist religion and strict law enforcement within this protected area. We recommend the effective implementation of a community-based livestock insurance scheme to compensate the economic loss of herders due to predation and improved herding practices as the recommended mitigation measures for ensuring livestock security and snow leopards’ conservation in the valley.


New Articles to the Biblography

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Title:  Identifying priority landscapes for conservation of snow leopards in Pakistan

Authors: Hameed, S., Din, J. U., Ali, H., Kabir, M., Younas, M., Rehman, E. U., Bari, F., Hao, W., Bischof, R., Nawaz, M. A.

Abstract:  Pakistan’s total estimated snow leopard habitat is about 80,000 km2 of which about half is considered prime habitat. However, this preliminary demarcation was not always in close agreement with the actual distribution the discrepancy may be huge at the local and regional level. Recent technological developments like camera trapping and molecular genetics allow for collecting reliable presence records that could be used to construct realistic species distribution based on empirical data and advanced mathematical approaches like MaxEnt. The current study followed this approach to construct an accurate distribution of the species in Pakistan. Moreover, movement corridors, among different landscapes, were also identified through circuit theory. The probability of habitat suitability, generated from 98 presence points and 11 environmental variables, scored the snow leopard’s assumed range in Pakistan, from 0 to 0.97. A large portion of the known range represented low-quality habitat, including areas in lower Chitral, Swat, Astore, and Kashmir. Conversely, Khunjerab, Misgar, Chapursan, Qurumber, Broghil, and Central Karakoram represented high-quality habitats. Variables with higher contributions in the MaxEnt model were precipitation during the driest month (34%), annual mean temperature (19.5%), mean diurnal range of temperature (9.8%), annual precipitation (9.4%), and river density (9.2). The model was validated through receiver operating characteristic (ROC) plots and defined thresholds. The average test AUC in Maxent for the replicate runs was 0.933 while the value of AUC by ROC curve calculated at 0.15 threshold was 1.00. These validation tests suggested a good model fit and strong predictive power. The connectivity analysis revealed that the population in the Hindukush landscape appears to be more connected with the population in Afghani- stan as compared to other populations in Pakistan. Similarly, the Pamir-Karakoram population is better connected with China and Tajikistan, while the Himalayan population was connected with the population in India. Based on our findings we propose three model landscapes to be considered under the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) agenda as regional priority areas, to safeguard the future of the snow leopard in Pakistan and the region. These landscapes fall within mountain ranges of the Himalaya, Hindu Kush and Karakoram-Pamir, respectively. We also identified gaps in the existing protected areas network and suggest new protected areas in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan to protect critical habitats of snow leopard in Pakistan.




Title: Fast, flexible alternatives to regular grid designs for spatial capture–recapture.

Authors: Durbach, I., Borchers, D., Sutherland, C., Sharma, K.

Abstract: Spatial capture–recapture (SCR) methods use the location of detectors (camera traps, hair snares and live-capture traps) and the locations at which animals were detected (their spatial capture histories) to estimate animal density. Despite the often large expense and effort involved in placing detectors in a landscape, there has been relatively little work on how detectors should be located. A natural criterion is to place traps so as to maximize the precision of density estimators, but the lack of a closed-form expression for precision has made optimizing this criterion computationally demanding. 2. Recent results by Efford and Boulanger (2019) show that precision can be well approximated by a function of the expected number of detected individuals and expected number of recapture events, both of which can be evaluated at low computational cost. We use these results to develop a method for obtaining survey designs that optimize this approximate precision for SCR studies using count or binary proximity detectors, or multi-catch traps. 3. We show how the basic design protocol can be extended to incorporate spatially varying distributions of activity centres and animal detectability. We illustrate our approach by simulating from a camera trap study of snow leopards in Mongolia and comparing estimates from our designs to those generated by regular or optimized grid designs. Optimizing detector placement increased the number of detected individuals and recaptures, but this did not always lead to more precise density estimators due to less precise estimation of the effective sampling area. In most cases, the precision of density estimators was comparable to that obtained with grid designs, with improvement in some scenarios where approximate CV(¬D) < 20% and density varied spatially. 4. Designs generated using our approach are transparent and statistically grounded. They can be produced for survey regions of any shape, adapt to known information about animal density and detectability, and are potentially easier and less costly to implement. We recommend their use as good, flexible candidate designs for SCR surveys when reasonable knowledge of model parameters exists. We provide software for researchers to construct their own designs, in the form of updates to design functions in the r package oSCR.