New WWF camera trap captures snow leopard in Nepal

Posted on 22 November 2011

Camera traps installed by WWF in the Nepalese Himalayas last month have captured their first picture of an endangered snow leopard. The cameras are part of a community monitoring project that will help WWF estimate number of snow leopards in area and determine the best way to conserve them.

“The camera traps are a means to empower local communities to lead conservation efforts of snow leopards,” stated Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF-Nepal.

“With habitat loss, poaching and retaliatory killing by herders posing as major threats to snow leopards, community stewardship in conservation is key to the protection of snow leopards,” he added.

There are only about 6,000 snow leopards remaining in the wild. The animals stand to lose over a third of their habitat to climate change in the coming decades.

Last week, the Eastern Himalayan nations of Bhutan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh met to address the impacts of climate change on food, water and energy security, as well as on biodiversity (more here on the Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas). The countries agreed to collaborate on adaptation efforts to protect water sources, ensure sustainable food production, increase access to clean energy, and coordinate disaster management.

“The framework of cooperation will see the creation of an interconnected mosaic of conservation spaces across the Eastern Himalayas, crucial for communities that rely on the region’s natural resources for their survival and the protection of endangered species such as the snow leopard,” said Liisa Rohweder, CEO of WWF-Finland.

This graph shows the estimated snow leopard population by country. The elusive nature of the species makes it difficult to obtain an accurate population count.

Snow leopards spotted in western Nepal (by SLN member Bikram Shrestha) 2011-11-16 12:20:37

KATHMANDU, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) — Conservationists are elated with the sighting of three snow leopards in lower areas of Mustang district in western Nepal recently, local media reported on Wednesday.

Due to their inherently rare and mysterious character, these critically endangered mammals, scientifically known as Uncia, are often seen by a few people including researchers and conservationists.

“I saw a small number of Himalayan Blue sheep grazing around the grassland near Taprang in Jarkot area on Thursday morning. I waited for a while and moved my eyes around, and suddenly I saw a snow leopard coming towards the pasture from the stream nearby,” said Bikram Shrestha, field biologist and a member of the census team. “I was elated and took numerous pictures of the animal.”

According to Wednesday’s The Kathmandu Post daily, a team of researchers and technical experts are conducting the first ever count of the snow leopards in the country for the past three weeks.

Meanwhile, digital cameras installed in different parts of the mountainous district on Oct. 28 have recorded the sight of two more snow leopards in Taprang area near Muktinath temple and Namuma area in Jomsom. The cameras will be installed in more areas in Mustang by Dec. 15. Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC), USA for Nepal Snow Leopard Corridor Project and Snow Leopard Scouts in coordination with National Trust for Nature Conservation and Annapurna Conservation Area started the count of the mammal from Mustang.

Experts believe that about 300-500 adult snow leopards survive in the country, particularly in Manang, Mustang, Dolpa and Gorkha districts. Due to habitat loss and increased poaching activities, their number is declining in recent years, said Karna Shah, another member of the research team.

The snow leopard, which lives around 5,000-6,000 meters above sea level, is considered a solitary animal.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

Nepal’s snow leopards to be counted

November 3 2011 at 06:00pm


Kathmandu – Nepal has launched the first census of its snow leopards, local media reported, in a bid to raise awareness of the endangered species.

Closed circuit television cameras have been installed around the northern district of Mustang, at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 metres, and are planned to count the district’s leopards within two months.

“The census aims to find the exact population of snow leopards and conserve them,” Som Ale, one of the conservationists involved in the project, was quoted as saying by the Kathmandu Post.

“We believe it will help bring awareness about conservation of leopards among people.”

The project is being carried out jointly by the National Trust for Nature Conservation, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project and other partners.

Nepal’s snow leopards live in the Mugu, Mustang, Dolpa and Humla districts in the northern belt, at an altitude of around 5,000 metres.

Conservationists say their number is rapidly declining and put the current figure at 300 to 500.

“Major threats for snow leopards come from the human and wildlife conflict,” World Wide Fund for Nature official Kamal Thapa told dpa.

“Villagers kill the animals for attacking their livestock.”

The conservationist group is running insurance programmes to discourage people from attacking the endangered species to defend their cattle. – Sapa-dpa

Nepal children to track snow leopard

(AFP) – 1 day ago (8Nov11)

KATHMANDU — Conservationists in Nepal have enlisted an army of school children to record the movements of the mysterious snow leopard, one of the most elusive predators in the world, a scientist said Tuesday.

Experts believe just 500 adults survive in the Himalayan nation, and few can claim ever to have seen the secretive, solitary “mountain ghost”, which lives 5,000 to 6,000 metres (16,500 to 20,000 ft) above sea level.

“Snow leopards are inherently rare, and also elusive in the sense that they are active during dusk and dawn, so few people, including biologists, have seen a snow leopard to date,” said Som Ale of the US-based Snow Leopard Conservancy.

The group has enlisted children from schools in the leopard’s habitat in Mustang, in Nepal’s mountainous northern frontier, who will work in pairs to instal and monitor digital cameras to count the endangered species.

The census, due to be carried out over two months in winter, will give scientists a more accurate idea of numbers in Nepal than more primitive techniques, including recording tracks and collecting droppings.

Although the Snow Leopard Conservancy used camera traps on a study in India six years ago, the group says this is the first survey of a large predator anywhere in the world by local communities who are not paid conservation experts.

“In parts of Africa, lions may be monitored by local people but they are well paid professional guides,” Ale told AFP.

The pupils will be trained to set up digital cameras that take infra-red images and operate in sub-zero temperatures to areas where snow leopards would be expected to visit.

Computer programmers will then use each animal’s unique pelt to create to estimate the number of snow leopards.

The snow leopard is protected in Nepal by an act of parliament dating back to the 1970s which provides for penalties of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,300) and up to 15 years in jail for poachers.

Nepal children enlisted to track elusive snow leopard

Published on Nov 9, 2011

Conservationists in Nepal have enlisted an army of school children to record the movements of the mysterious snow leopard, one of the most elusive predators in the world, a scientist said Nov 8, 2011. — PHOTO: AFPKATHMANDU (AFP) – Conservationists in Nepal have enlisted an army of school children to record the movements of the mysterious snow leopard, one of the most elusive predators in the world, a scientist said on Tuesday.

Experts believe just 500 adults survive in the Himalayan nation, and few can claim ever to have seen the secretive, solitary ‘mountain ghost’, which lives 5,000 to 6,000 metres above sea level.

‘Snow leopards are inherently rare, and also elusive in the sense that they are active during dusk and dawn, so few people, including biologists, have seen a snow leopard to date,’ said Dr Som Ale of the United States-based Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC).

The group has enlisted children from schools in the leopard’s habitat in Mustang, in Nepal’s mountainous northern frontier, who will work in pairs to install and monitor digital cameras to count the endangered species.

Untimely loss of Dr. Pralad Yonzon, the founder of Resources Himalaya Foundation, and the team leader of Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH)

2 November 2011

Dear Readers,

The untimely demise of Dr. Pralad Yonzon, the founder of Resources Himalaya Foundation, and the team leader of Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH), has deeply shocked and shattered us.

A Fulbright scholar and the recipient of the Order of the Golden Ark, Dr. Yonzon specialized in wildlife biology. He has been recognized for his work on conservation in Nepal, Bhutan, India and Vietnam, in particular for influencing environmentally sound government policies on nature conservation; for his groundbreaking discovery in Bhutan and comprehensive scientific studies of rhinos, snow leopard, tiger and elephants in Nepal; contribution to the biodiversity visioning process for the eastern Himalaya; for his work on evaluation and monitoring, and human resource development in the field of conservation. He was without doubt the finest conservation biologist in this part of the world.

Dr. Yonzon always believed youths as the future leaders of conservation in the Himalaya. He provided the platform, research skills, and contemporary knowledge through the mentoring program of Resources Himalaya for which all he demanded was the enthusiasm of the students. Although he is no more with us to provide more knowledge, he will always live in our hearts for the generosity with which he shared his vast wealth of knowledge and for his selfless devotion to the cause of conservation. He will always remain as a guiding light in all our endeavors. We dedicate this issue of Headlines Himalaya to Dr. Pralad Yonzon, and commit to bring the upcoming issues regularly and maintain the quality he always expected of us. Thank you for your support in the difficult time.

From Resources Himalaya

Dear Friends:

We recently learned of the untimely death of Dr. Pralad Yonzon of Nepal, the founder of Resources Himalaya Foundation, and the team leader of Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH).

Besides his many activities and valuable research on wildlife in the Himalayan region, Dr. Pralad Yonzon was also the first president of the Society for Conservation Biology – Asia Section and was very active in organizing the first Asia section regional meeting that took place in Kathmandu in 2005; see: . He was also the primary author of Nepal’s first Snow Leopard Action Plan, which he drafted in 2003. He remained a champion for snow leopard conservation throughout the region until his death.

More details of his life’s work are available from the Resources Himalaya Foundation

He will be sorely missed by his many colleagues and friends.


Tom McCarthy


Tom McCarthy, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Snow Leopard Program


On 31 October 2011, Dr. Prahlad Yonzon died in an accident in Kalanki, Kathmandu at about 4.00 PM. He was crashed by a truck while cycling back to his house. He was 60 years old and left his wife, a son and a daughter.

Yonzon did his PhD research in Langtang area on the topic” Ecology and conservation of the Red Panda in the Nepal-Himalaya”, from University of Maine, USA around 1989. Dr. Yonzon was President of Nepal Zoological Society during 1990-92 and Lecturer of Zoology in Natural History Museum, TU, Nepal. During that time Nepal Zoological Society published Directory of Zoologists of Nepal, and a regular news bulletin – Habitat Himalaya.

During late 30s he was teaching in TC campus also. After a long activities outside the university, he was mentoring the students of Environment Science in Tribhuvan University few years before and produced thesis for dozens of young graduates.

Besides his many activities and valuable research on wildlife in the Nepal Himalayan region including Bhutan and Vietnam, Dr. Prahlad Yonzon was also the first President of the Society for Conservation Biology – Asia Section and was very active in organizing the first Asia section regional meeting that took place in Kathmandu in 2005. He was Trustees of NTNC and wildlife consultant of UNDP.

He was one of the author of Nepal’s Snow Leopard Action Plan drafted in 2003 some other documents in mega herbivores. Dr. Prahlad Yonzon was the founder of Resources Himalaya Foundation, and the team leader of Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH).

Nepal lost a prominent wildlife Biologist.

Mukesh K. Chalise, PhD
Associate Professor
Central Department of Zoology
Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Challenges of Climate Change in the Mountains Highlighted in Cancun

Experts from leading institutions and government organisations working in the field of climate change in the Himalayan region called attention to mountain issues and challenges in the light of climate change. They linked these issues to the debate on how to mainstream the sustainable development agenda while planning adaptation and mitigation activities, including the management of risks and hazards in fragile mountain environments, and called on mountainous countries to join the Mountain Initiative promoted by the Government of Nepal.


Mountain Initiative for Climate Change

The Mountain Initiative for Climate Change Adaptation in Mountain Regions was initiated by the Government of Nepal. ICIMOD is providing technical support.

The rationale for the Mountain Initiative
Objectives and expected outcome of the Mountain Initiative
Steps taken by the Government of Nepal
Recent documents

Mountains cover around 24% of the Earth’s land surface and host about 13% of the world population. Mountains are the providers of essential ecosystem services and play the role of water towers to billions of people living in downstream slopes, valleys and plains – directly and indirectly. In Asia, the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) mountain system, also referred to as the third pole, contains the largest volume of snow and ice outside the polar region. The Hindu Kush-Himalayas, Andes, Alps, Pamir, and Atlas mountain systems all play a critical role. As a source of water flows and river systems, the world’s mountain watersheds support livelihoods and food security for almost half of the global population. Notwithstanding the significant role of mountain ecosystems, the mountain agenda is not addressed adequately by the UNFCCC deliberations to reflect the needs of mountain livelihoods and environments. Realising this, the Prime Minister of Nepal in his address to COP 15 said:

“I therefore take this opportunity to call on all the mountain countries and stakeholders to come together, form a common platform and make sure that mountain concerns get due attention in the international deliberations. Let us make sure that our interests are prominently represented in future COP negotiations and let us make sure that our efforts towards adaptation obtain the required international support.”

Mountain people, particularly the disadvantaged and marginalised groups, suffer from increasing poverty, natural hazards, deprivation and socioeconomic conflicts. Climate change has exacerbated these challenges. Climate change, natural hazards and other forces threaten the functioning of the complex web of life and livelihoods that mountains support. The consequences of poverty and environmental degradation reach far beyond mountain communities, and escalating numbers of landslides, mudslides, catastrophic ἀoods and other natural disasters in highland areas adversely affect the densely populated lowlands. Moreover, the rapid melting of mountain glaciers and degradation of watersheds is reducing water availability and increasing conἀicts over dwindling natural resources and supplies. These changes will be felt most immediately by poor and isolated mountain communities, who have little capacity to cope with and adapt to these changes. The consequences for the billions of people downstream of major mountain areas who depend on critical environmental resources provided by mountains, mainly water, biodiversity and hydrological processes, will be equally severe.

The rationale for the Mountain Initiative
The ongoing UNFCCC processes on its key elements such as adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer, financing and capacity building, have so far not addressed the specific situation of mountain systems, especially the increased physical and socioeconomic vulnerability of its population. Countries that have large mountain areas have been raising issues individually in various COP sessions, Ad-hoc Working groups of the UNFCCC process and multilateral environmental agreements (MEA), but so far they have not been able to inἀuence the negotiation process in favour of the global mountain agenda in the context of the climate change. In order to bridge this gap and ensure that the benefit from climate change conventions accrues also to mountain ecosystems and the protection of the lives and livelihoods of their vulnerable and disaster-prone people, some of the mountain countries have realised the need to take a collective approach and bringing countries that have mountain ecosystems together in a single forum. Nepal in consultation with various regional and global stakeholders including the Mountain Partnership has launched this initiative. A proposal has been made to initiate a ‘Mountain Alliance Initiative for Climate Change’ to provide a framework within which mountain countries in collaboration with mountain specialized global and regional agencies can work together to understand better the changes occurring in mountains and comprehend the challenges they face as a result of climate and global changes. The Alliance will advocate for better attention and action in order to reduce the risk and build resilient mountain communities, while maintaining the vital mountain-based ecosystem services for the welfare of the billions of people living downstream.

Objectives and expected outcome of the Mountain Initiative
The Government of Nepal, in collaboration with major development partners including the Mountain Partnership (MP), ICIMOD and other key global and regional stakeholders especially among the Asian and Andean countries, will take the lead in this Initiative to further better communication of the anticipated impacts of climate change in mountains to global communities. Concerted efforts will be made to bring all the major mountainous countries from the HKH, Andean, Alpine, Pamir and Atlas regions on board with the objective of mobilizing meaningful support and ensuring solidarity to enable the Alliance to achieve the goal of securing global attention for the situation in mountain ecosystems and mountain populations. Through organization of stakeholder consultations and conferences at regional and global levels, the MAI aims to promote the specific concerns of mountain ecosystems and livelihoods within the ongoing UNFCCC negotiations. More specifically, the Alliance will document and analyse specific climate change scenarios and impacts in the high mountains and highlands, gather best practices and information about local knowledge and propose different options available, and share these in the preparatory meetings of MEAs, and Subsidiary Bodies (SBI and SBSTA) leading up to the COP 16 in Mexico and beyond. The aim is to see the outcome of these efforts included in the form of a resolution on specific climate adaptation related instruments, mechanisms and programmes for mountains that might then be included in the legally binding agreements under the UNFCCC and/or other MEAs.

Steps taken by the Government of Nepal
The Government of Nepal (GoN) endorsed this initiative in May 2010 and has designated the Ministry of Environment (MoE) as the focal ministry to carry forward the tasks of the Mountain Alliance Initiative. A Secretariat has been established within the Ministry to coordinate the related activities and mobilize support from the stakeholders. A Steering Committee to guide the MAI process, and an organizing committee to organize the Ministerial meetings of the mountain countries, have been set up. In view of the likelihood that such an ambitious goal may not be achievable within one year, the GoN has planned both short and medium-term activities with an initial planning horizon of three years.

Recent documents
•Global Climate Financing Mechanisms and Mountain Systems (2010)
•Mountain Initiative Status Paper (2010)
•International Expert Consultation Meeting: Mountain Initiative on Climate Change (2010)

Wildlife genetics and its applications for snow leopard conservation in Nepal

By Dibesh Karmacharya

As they gracefully navigate through the high Himalayan mountain landscape, the elusive and endangered snow leopards exemplify nature’s greatest gift to all of us. Snow leopards are found throughout the Himalayan region. These magnificent creatures are the quintessential top carnivore, often the main balancing factor for all the downstream preys; sustaining the fine ecological balance.

Nepal’s high Himalaya region provides excellent refuse to snow leopards. It is estimated that there are close to 400 snow leopards in Nepal spread throughout pockets of various conservation areas. But the exact number of this species in Nepal remains to be studied. There are various reasons why experts believe the exact number of snow leopard found in Nepal could be much lower than the estimated number. Snow leopard’s long-term viability has continuously been threatened by conflict with locals because of livestock depredation-sometimes resulting in retaliatory killings. Loss of habitat and declining prey numbers due to their preferred grazing areas being encroached for livestock usage are also some of the major contributing factors for snow leopard’s declining numbers.

Furthermore, there is active illicit trans-border market for wildlife animal parts in the northern frontiers of Nepal and Tibet; as a result poaching has become widespread. As substitute to tiger bones and other tissue parts, Asian traditional medicine market has an increasing demand for bones and other tissue parts of endangered felids such as snow leopard. This has exacerbated the threat of snow leopards in Nepal.

Prior to any effective conservation strategy being designed and implemented, it is crucial to gather reasonable data on estimation of existing abundance and distribution of snow leopard in Nepal. However because of elusive, solitary nature of snow leopard and its rugged rocky terrain habitat, information available is sparse and inadequate on their actual distribution and population status.

Majority of snow leopard studies have consisted of surveys that relied upon sign (e.g. pugmarks, scrapes and scats), interviews with local inhabitants, and camera trapping. However, these approaches have several disadvantages including the need for extended time in the field (>40–50 days), the difficulty of setting camera traps in snow leopard habitat, and the high cost of field work in remote areas. Hence additional methods to supplement sign surveys and camera trapping therefore become essential for effective monitoring of snow leopards.

Genetic analysis has become an effective and popular method and is used in all aspects of wildlife biology and conservation. Since portions of genome of every individual is unique; use of genetic tools yield highly specific information which in turn can be used in various aspects of wildlife biology such as migration rates, population size, bottlenecks and kinship. Genetic analysis can also be utilised to identify species, sex and individuals; and provide insight on its population trend as well as to gather other taxonomic level information. Since it is infeasible to enumerate populations of low density, wide-ranging and elusive species like snow leopards, non-invasive methods of detecting snow leopards by using scat or fecal sample have been frequently employed to infer estimations on the number of individuals in a certain area; moreover, this method has also been favoured for eliminating the need for direct interactions (invasive) that could potentially have adverse effects on animal welfare.

Most of the non-invasive wildlife genetics methods involve extracting genetic material (DNA) from the fecal matter, and then subjecting that DNA for species and sex identification molecular assay-mainly Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Same DNA can also be subjected to DNA fingerprinting assay to derive individual identification and characterisation. Phylogenetics can also be carried out to draw evolutionary relatedness among populations found at different areas, thereby helping us draw “genetic movement map” and figure out whether there is any gene flow between separate populations. So with the molecular or genetic technique, not only we will be able to tell whether fecal matter or any biological sample belongs to certain species, say snow leopard, but also we will be able to tell whether it is male or female and also whether two samples are from the same individual or are coming from different individuals.

The applications and utilisation of such information are not only confined to population estimation and trend analysis, but they can also be used to draw complete genetic relationship maps between various populations and thereby help us comprehend wildlife habit and habitat of endangered species like snow leopards in landscape level- this whole new field of wildlife biology is also known as Landscape genomics. Molecular based wildlife forensics can be a very effective tool to fight against poaching. DNA fingerprinting as it is commonly known can be used to identify an unknown tissue or any animal part and see if it belongs to any endangered species.

Currently, efforts are underway to initiate genetic based wildlife research in Nepal. The Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, based in Kathmandu, has embarked into this field in collaboration with various wildlife conservation related governmental and non-governmental organisations. It is very important that our policy makers, academicians and conservation enthusiasts are all on board to review our current conservation efforts more closely and utilise new upcoming technologies to gather accurate information, which in turn will help us in designing effective conservation strategies. In that context, the currently available wildlife genetics tools can be polished to fit Nepal’s needs in her conservation efforts.

(Dibesh Karmacharya is the International Director of the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Livestock insurance program increases snow leopard population in Nepal

The population of snow leopard inside Kanchenjunga Conservation Area has been secured with the introduction of livestock insurance scheme. Livestock owners had contributed NPR 55 for each number of animals they owned and a villager is entitled to receive NPR 2,500 if a snow leopard killed a cattle. Earlier, villagers used to set up snares to capture and kill snow leopards as retribution.

9 November 2011‐kathmandu‐post/2010/11/09/nation/snow‐leopard‐population‐up/214631/

Effort to save snow leopard in Taplejung, Nepal

Added At: 2010-10-21 12:19 AM
The Himalayan Times
Himalayan News Service

TAPLEJUNG; Locals of Gunsa village in the district have started to train local yak and sheep herders on the conservation of the endangered snow leopard that is found in the Kanchanjangha Conservation Area.

“Shepherds spark wildfires, chop down trees and make noise, thus disturbing snow leopards habitats. Keeping this tendency in mind, we decided to train them on the importance of the rare species,” said Himali Chundak, chairman of the Snow Leopard Conservation Sub-Committee.

Chundak added that the training was intended to conserve snow leopards and attract more tourists in the conservation area during the Nepal Tourism Year-2011.

Dandu Sherpa, a local, said villagers train shepherds visiting their farms and even in forest areas. Consequently, the hostility against the snow leopards and encroachment on their habitat has reduced of late.

Sujit Kumar Shrestha, manager of the conservation area project, said villagers were actively involved in the conservation of the rare wildlife. “Recognising its contribution to wildlife conservation, the World Wildlife Fund has honoured the sub-committee with Abraham Conservation Award,” said Shrestha.

Snow leopard is an internationally protected wildlife species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Article from August 2006: Endangered cats leave ‘trail of fear’: Snow leopards tracked by monitoring fright of their prey.

Published online 10 August 2006 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news060807-12

Endangered cats leave ‘trail of fear’: Snow leopards tracked by monitoring fright of their prey.

Michael Hopkin

The endangered snow leopard has returned to the valleys around Mount Everest, say wildlife researchers working in Nepal. And how do they know it’s back? Because the leopards’ traditional prey are terrified.

Tracking top predators by spotting the fear they instil in their prey could offer a new way to monitor the conservation status of rare animals, says Som Ale of the University of Illinois-Chicago, who came up with the idea. “We can get clues about their whereabouts from the behaviour of their main prey species,” he says.

He and his colleague Joel Brown tracked the elusive snow leopard (Uncia uncia) by observing the behaviour of its usual prey, the Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), a relative of wild goats.

The leopards, of which there are only around 6,000 left in the wild, had vanished completely from the foothills of Everest after the region was opened up to tourists in the years following the first conquest of the mountain in 1953.

The tahr have had a relatively easy ride since 1976, when Everest and the surrounding area were declared a national park. But since 2000, their population has stopped growing and the number of mothers with young has dwindled, leading some conservationists to suspect that the snow leopard was back.

The problem lay in proving it — spotting the leopards is immensely difficult. “For many conservationists it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Ale says. But the tahr are much better at spotting leopards; after all, their lives can depend on it.

On the look-out
The researchers therefore sought to spot the hallmarks of fear among the previously complacent tahr. Signs include ears standing on end, eyes focused into the distance, and a whistling cry used to communicate danger to other tahr.

Ale and Brown found that the tahr were most vigilant on cliffs and in open forests. And when they checked these habitats, they found droppings and paw-prints from the leopards. Ale presented the results at the meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Memphis, Tennessee.

What’s more, observation of the tahr led to six direct sightings of the leopards, Ale says. Simply watching the tahr will not allow a census of the leopard population. But if it leads to direct leopard visuals it may be valuable in estimating how many leopards are living in the area.

Of course, the plan would not have worked at all but for the fact that the tahr have no other natural predators, meaning that they only get scared of leopards. Not even the local people are a threat. “The people who live there are Sherpas, who are Buddhists,” Ale explains.

That meant that the researchers could get within some 20 metres of the tahr without causing them to flee, says Ale — which was useful for monitoring their behaviour. “And it meant we got really good photos of them,” he adds.