Snow Leopard Conversations – Paper Discussion with Orjan Johansson

The Snow Leopard Network is pleased to announce a continuation of our series entitled “Snow Leopard Conversations”. This series aims to showcase the latest science and research related to snow leopards. We invite you to meet authors of new publications uploaded to the Snow Leopard Bibliography. These conversations are aimed to cover unexplored themes and emphasises interdisciplinary approaches. We hope to promote more such talks and discussions in future.
For this Snow Leopard Conversation we are delighted to welcome Dr. Orjan Johannson. Orjan will present the recent paper entitled “The timing of breeding and independence for snow leopard females and their cubs.” Our SLN Committee Member – Dr. Sandro Lovari – will facilitate the session.




Wednesday, November 25th 2020; 11:00am Italy Central Europe Time


Register to attend through the following link:

ZOOM Registration

    • If you have never used Zoom before, we recommend that you try the link 10 minutes before the start of the lecture.
    • During the talk, please keep your microphone muted.
    • Please feel free to write questions in the comment area and there will be time for questions/discussion at the end of the talk.
    • The Zoom event is limited to 100 participants. Please register for the event and also sign in early to ensure your place.

Blog – Engaging women in conservation – by Ranjini Murali


Capacity development, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion


Engaging women in conservation

Ranjini Murali

Conservation Scientist, The Snow Leopard Trust

I am presently the conservation scientist at the Snow Leopard Trust. As a part of my role, I support research and conservation activities of the Trust across the snow leopard range. My research interests lie in understanding human-nature relationships and community governance. For my PhD, I worked on how people use, value and manage ecosystem services across the snow leopard range. I also have experience in community-based conservation. I am also a fellow on the assessment of multiple values for nature conducted by the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity (IPBES).

New Articles to the Biblography

Please find below, details of new articles, added to the bibliography:

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.


SLN Webinar; Using a genetic lens to understand endangered species


The Snow Leopard Network is pleased to announce our seventh SLN webinar of 2020. SLN is dedicating the month of November to exploring Genetics, in particular in support of snow leopard conservation. We already have launched the November training initiative with a module on genetics. The Webinar allows us to bring emphasis on this topic with a wider audience and drawing on experiences from different endangered species.

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan for this thematic discussion on how genetics can be brought to bear more effectively on specific aspects of snow leopard conservation. Uma has a wealth of knowledge and experience working on endangered species and developing methodological approaches for conservation. Uma will be joined by Dr. Byron Weckworth, Director of Panthera’s Snow Leopard and Conservation Genetic programs, as principal discussant.

About the Talk:
Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan will start by exploring the reasons species go extinct, and describe how genetic methods and data can inform our understanding of species’ futures. Uma will give some examples of her work with tigers, and summarise their knowledge on snow leopard conservation genetics, including some of their work to estimate snow leopard population size. Finally, she will describe ongoing efforts, (in collaboration with scientists at Stanford University,) to understand more about snow leopards globally and locally.
More about our guest:
Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan is an associate professor and senior fellow, DBT Wellcome Trust India Alliance, at the National Centre for Biological Sciences. She has studied the genetics of endangered species for the last fifteen years, and is interested in understanding how humans are affecting the evolutionary trajectory of species like snow leopards. Uma loves working with students and science communication, and tries to communicate her science to conservation managers.
All my professional life, I have worked with scat. I love finding a scat and wondering…., what mysteries will this reveal?“, says Uma. 

Date/Time:  19:30 India time, Friday, November 20th (Please log into the meeting 5 min early to set up)

Location: ZOOM, to join this talk  REGISTER HERE  

Please note:

  • If you have never used Zoom before, we recommend that you try the link 10 minutes before the start of the lecture.
  • During the talk, please keep your microphone muted.
  • Please feel free to write questions in the comment area and there will be time for questions/discussion at the end of the talk.
  • The Zoom event is limited to 100 participants. Please register for the event and also sign in early to ensure your place.


Some news from the world of Snow leopards

Module 6: PAWS Snow Leopard Distributions

We are thrilled to build on Module 1 of the SLN training initiative which focussed on camera trapping surveys to assess snow leopard abundance. This coming Module focusses on assessing snow leopard or prey distributions across landscapes. Both Module 1 and 6 aim to support the PAWS (Population Assessing of the Worlds Snow leopards) initiative and are offered thanks to the GSLEP Programme partnership. If you have the opportunity please join us for this 2nd PAWS training module.  

Course Content

To estimate how many snow leopards there are, we also need to know where they are. Assessment of the status and distribution of rare and elusive species such as the snow leopard is challenging. Recent surveys in some parts of the snow leopard range have indicated that our understanding of the species’ distributions might not be as accurate as previously thought. To minimize subjectivity and maximize replicability and reliability, it is important to address imperfect detection probability in estimating species distribution.

Occupancy surveys can be implemented with a variety of sampling methods, spatial extents, and effort levels. Assessing the distribution of a species at local and regional scales may also help track changes over time and gauge the effects of potential threats by comparing local extinctions and colonizations over time. Probability of site use
or occupancy, as a function of habitat can also help define strata for which specific intensive sampling strategies using spatial capture recapture methods can be developed.

Module 6 aims to equip participants with the knowledge and tools to plan and carry out snow leopard distribution survey across large areas using interviews of key informants, sign surveys, camera traps and genetic surveys. We will discuss means and workflows to collect, process and organize data in a way that it can be used for occupancy analyses. Additionally, we will be sharing the latest Macro level methods and tools recommended by the PAWS GSLEP Programme. The Macro Level design tools provide recommendation for assessing snow leopard distribution across large area (5,000 sq km) and how to select sites for more intensive surveying. Distribution estimates of occupancy can be obtained by conducting interview surveys, camera trapping or sign based occupancy methods. The module will cover key concepts underlying occupancy models and taking into account detection probability.

Meet the Trainers

Dr. Koustubh Sharma: Koustubh is the International Coordinator of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program and a Senior Regional Ecologist with the Snow Leopard Trust. He, along with Justine help coordinate Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards (PAWS) as a GSLEP initiative. He holds a PhD in Wildlife Zoology from Mumbai University, and a Masters degree in Physics. He has undergone training on spatial capture recapture methods at the Centre for Research in Ecological and Environmental Research (CREEM), University of St. Andrews, and on advanced applications of ArcGIS by ESRI. He has been involved with colleagues and partners in developing training tool-kits and delivering training workshops for a suite of ecological methods relevant for snow leopard research and conservation.

Dr. Justine Shanti Alexander: Justine is the Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Network. She provides technical support to GSLEP for the population assessment of the worlds snow leopards (PAWS) and other efforts related to snow leopard conservation. Justine also acts as the Regional Ecologist for the Snow Leopard Trust and supports research and conservation work across the snow leopard range. She holds a PhD in snow leopard population assessments from Beijing Forestry University and a MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College London. 

Dr. Ian Durbach: Ian is part statistician, part operations researcher. He is a research fellow at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling at the University of St Andrews, where he currently works on two projects: modelling behavioural responses of whales to sonar, and designing the camera trap component of the first range-wide survey of snow leopards. He is also adjunct associate professor in the Department of Statistical Sciences at the University of Cape Town, where he is part of the Centre for Statistics in Ecology, the Environment, and Conservation (SEEC). Ian is also interested in multi-criteria decision modelling (MCDM) for supporting decisions between options whose outcomes are uncertain, and applying machine learning to ecological classification tasks involving images, audio, and video.

Criteria for participation

    • Snow Leopard Network Member
    • Experience of working on snow leopard conservation or concrete plans to be involved in such efforts
    • Confirmed availability to attend all the four online seminars of a given module
    • Number of participants is limited to 20-30
    • Priority will be given to participants from snow leopard range countries

Planned Schedule

    • 2 hour online Zoom Seminars take place every Wednesday of the month, December 2020 (4 Seminars; December 2nd, 9th , 16th , 23rd) at 14:00 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan time
    • Additional group work, assignments or readings are likely to be organized by the trainers
    • Please note we expect all participants to attend the complete set of Seminars as they are interconnected and build on each other
    • Details of each specific Seminar topic will be shared approximately 5 days beforehand; including any expected preparations by participants.

Deadline for Applications

    • Friday, November 20th, 2020. Please note places are limited so please do not delay in applying.
    • To apply please check the Criteria for participation and complete the following Application

Kindly note these trainings are free to participants. Also that the trainers are sharing their time and knowledge with us as a gesture to the Network and to snow leopards!

Publication Alert: New Article to our Bibliography

Please see details below, of a new article added to our Bibliography:

Title: Meta-replication, sampling bias, and multi-scale model selection: A case study on snow leopard (Panthera uncia) in western China.

Authors: Atzeni, L., Cushman, S. A., Bai, D., Wang, J., Chen, P., Shi,
K., Riordan, P.

Abstract: Replicated multiple scale species distribution models (SDMs) have become increasingly important to identify the correct variables determining species distribution and their influences on ecological responses. This study explores multi-scale habitat relationships of the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) in two study areas on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau of western China. Our primary objectives were to evaluate the degree to which snow leopard habitat relationships, expressed by predictors, scales of response, and magnitude of effects, were consistent across study areas or locally landcape-specific. We coupled univariate scale optimization and the maximum entropy algorithm to produce multivariate SDMs, inferring the relative suitability for the species by ensembling top performing models. We optimized the SDMs based on average omission rate across the top models and ensembles’ overlap with a simulated reference model. Comparison of SDMs in the two study areas highlighted landscape-specific responses to limiting factors. These were dependent on the effects of the hydrological network, anthropogenic features, topographic complexity, and the heterogeneity of the landcover patch mosaic. Overall, even accounting for specific local differences, we found general landscape attributes associated with snow leopard ecological requirements, consisting of a positive association with uplands and ridges, aggregated low-contrast landscapes, and large extents of grassy and herbaceous vegetation. As a means to evaluate the performance of two bias correction methods, we explored their effects on three datasets showing a range of bias intensities. The performance of corrections depends on the bias intensity; however, density kernels offered a reliable correction strategy under all circumstances. This study reveals the multi-scale response of snow leopards to environmental attributes and confirms the role of meta-replicated study designs for the identification of spatially varying limiting factors. Furthermore, this study makes important contributions to the ongoing discussion about the best approaches for sampling bias correction.



Land of the Snow Leopard

Last Friday, on International Snow Leopard Day, Snow Leopard Conservancy hosted a virtual event to highlight the work of the Land of the Snow Leopard Network.

SLC was joined by key members of the Land of the Snow Leopard Network from Central Asia. This gathering highlighted the interconnection of Indigenous People and the sacred Snow Leopard.

We wanted to share the recorded virtual event with the SLN.

The Land of the Snow Leopard Network is an unprecedented conservation initiative, a groundbreaking collaboration between Western conservation science and Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, with the goal of creating pathways for Indigenous involvement in the conservation of snow leopards.For more information please visit



Thank you very much.

Conservation of Pallas’s cats, (also known as manul), and synergistic impacts on snow leopards and mountain ecosystems.

A virtual event for GSLEP 

Pallas’s cats (also known as manul) share much of their range with snow leopards and the two species face similar threats. Addressing threats to Pallas’s cats can therefore be extended to snow leopards and vice versa and joint conservation efforts will be beneficial for both species and the ecosystems at large. The Pallas’s Cat International Conservation Alliance (PICA for short) invites you to join them in the discussion on how Pallas’s cats and snow leopards are good indicator species for different parts of the ecosystem and how joint conservation efforts will have synergistic effects that will benefit snow leopards, Pallas’s cats, and the mountain ecosystem at large. The meeting took place at the virtual venue ( on Monday 26 Oct, 2020, between 12:00 and 14:00 Bishkek time

You can watch it here –