Shan Shui Conservation Center

Nomhon, China

Shan Shui Conservation Center

Nomhon, China
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News Article | May 1, 2017

A trio of adorable snow leopards was recently caught on camera snuggling and relaxing beneath a shady tree near a monastery. The rare and elusive creatures were photographed in Qinghai province, in central China, using camera traps placed by Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, the Snow Leopard Trust and Shan Shui Conservation Center. China contains about 65 percent of the snow leopard habitat, according to Panthera. The footage was captured outside Zhaxilawu monastery; the camera trap was placed there because the area had been a hotspot for wildlife, with a wild bear and another snow leopard spotted in the previous weeks. Tibetan monks have also been recruited as snow leopard allies, with monks patrolling the areas where the snow leopards prowl to prevent poaching, according to a 2013 study. Though it's hard to tell from the video alone, the trio may be siblings, or possibly a mother and her two cubs, scientists from Panthera said. In the video, they roll around, yawn, stretch their feline limbs and nuzzle each other, before pausing to investigate the camera trap. Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are elusive cats that live in the forbidding, mountainous terrain of Asia, from Russia in the west to China in the east. Their white-speckled fur allows them to blend in with their craggy mountainous habitat, while their thick padded feet allow them to tromp silently but sure-footedly in the snow, hunting for prey. About 4,000 to 7,000 snow leopards remain in the wild, according to Defenders of Wildlife, and the regal felines are listed as a threatened species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Hu R.,Peking University | Hu R.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | Wen C.,Peking University | Wen C.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | And 7 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2017

Blooming citizen science in China creates opportunities to update distribution maps of threatened birds and contributes to decision making for conservation. 46,073 records submitted by over 7000 bird watchers from 1998 to 2013 in China cover 1195 of 1371 species and all provincial administrative districts in the country. We extracted 13,181 occurrence localities for 95 threatened species defined by the IUCN Red List and 239 national protected species in China. By applying these data in MaxEnt model, we identified new conservation hotspots for threatened birds in China in coastal regions of the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea, the south of the North China Plain, and the lower reach of the Yangtze River. These new conservation hotpots are not included in the global biodiversity hotspots, and not all represented in the priority regions in National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). These newly identified conservation hotspots are seriously under-protected: only less than 2% of them are in national nature reserves. There is a long way to go to meet the Aichi targets, a plan to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020. © 2017

Shen X.,Peking University | Shen X.,CAS Institute of Botany | Li S.,Peking University | Wang D.,Peking University | And 2 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2015

The Tibetan sacred mountains (TSMs) cover a large area and may represent a landscape-scale conservation opportunity. We compared the conservation value of forests in these mountains with the conservation value of government-established nature reserves and unmanaged open-access areas in Danba County, southwestern China. We used Landsat satellite images to map forest cover and to estimate forest loss in 1974-1989, 1989-1999, and 1999-2013. The TSMs (n = 41) and nature reserves (n = 4) accounted for 21.6% and 29.7% of the county's land area, respectively. Remaining land was open-access areas (i.e., areas without any restrictions on resource use) (56.2%) and farmlands (2.2%). Within the elevation range suitable for forests, forest cover did not differ significantly between nature reserves (58.8%) and open-access areas (58.4%), but was significantly higher in TSMs (65.5%) after controlling for environmental factors such as aspect, slope, and elevation. The TSMs of great cultural importance had higher forest cover, but patrols by monastery staff were not necessarily associated with increased forest cover. The annual deforestation rate in nonsacred areas almost tripled in 1989-1999 (111.4 ha/year) relative to 1974-1989 (40.4 ha/year), whereas the rate in TSMs decreased in the later period (19.7 ha/year vs. 17.2 ha/year). The reduced forest loss in TSMs in 1989-1999 was possibly due to the renaissance of TSM worship and strengthened management by the local Buddhist community since late 1980s. The annual deforestation rate in Danba decreased dramatically to 4.4 ha/year in 1999-2013, which coincided with the implementation of a national ban on logging in 1998. As the only form of protected area across the Tibetan region during much of its history, TSMs have positively contributed to conserving forest at a landscape scale. Conservation of TSM forests largely relied on the strength of local religious institutions. Integrating community-based conservation of TSMs within the government conservation network would benefit the conservation of the Tibetan region. © 2015, Society for Conservation Biology.

Shen X.,Peking University | Shen X.,Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute | Li S.,Peking University | Chen N.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | And 4 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2012

A positive relationship between traditional cultures and biodiversity exists worldwide, but when traditional and formal conservation institutions coexist, how they interact and affect biodiversity remains poorly studied. From 2005 to 2007, we studied the relationship between Tibetan traditional practices and biodiversity. Specifically, how traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and scientific ecological knowledge (SEK) affect local biodiversity by affecting people's attitudes and behaviors towards conservation. We interviewed 331 villagers in nine Tibetan villages in Sichuan Province, China. We used proxy questions to measure the traditional practices, TEK, SEK, conservation attitudes and behaviors of village residents. Meanwhile, we assessed the bird diversity around the villages by stratified sampling and point counts. The results indicate traditional practices exhibited a strong positive correlation with TEK, but a negative correlation with formal education and SEK. The villagers with high traditional practices had more positive attitudes towards conservation and more actively participated in conservation than villagers with low traditional practices, and villagers with medium traditional practices were the least concerned about, or participated in, conservation activities. Bird species richness, abundance, and the Shannon-Wiener diversity index were positively correlated with the traditional practice index of each village. The results of a negative binomial regression showed the traditional practice index was a positive correlative factor of bird species richness, while formal education was not a significant variable, after controlling for other potential sampling and environment factors. Government-sponsored conservation education was somewhat successful in raising people's environmental awareness, but these efforts have yet to correlate with enhanced biodiversity measures. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Li J.,Peking University | Yin H.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | Wang D.,Peking University | Jiagong Z.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | And 2 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2013

Conflicts between humans and snow leopards are documented across much of their overlapping distribution in Central Asia. These conflicts manifest themselves primarily in the form of livestock depredation and the killing of snow leopards by local herders. This source of mortality to snow leopards is a key conservation concern. To investigate human-snow leopard conflicts in the Sanjiangyuan Region of the Tibetan Plateau, we conducted household interviews about local herders' traditional use of snow leopard parts, livestock depredation, and overall attitudes towards snow leopards. We found most respondents (58%) knew that snow leopard parts had been used for traditional customs in the past, but they claimed not in the past two or three decades. It may be partly due to the issuing of the Protection of Wildlife Law in 1998 by the People's Republic of China. Total livestock losses were damaging (US$ 6193 per household in the past 1. year), however snow leopards were blamed by herders for only a small proportion of those losses (10%), as compared to wolves (45%) and disease (42%). Correspondingly, the cultural images of snow leopards were neutral (78%) and positive (9%) on the whole. It seems that human-snow leopard conflict is not intense in this area. However, snow leopards could be implicated by the retaliatory killing of wolves. We recommend a multi-pronged conservation program that includes compensation, insurance programs, and training local veterinarians to reduce livestock losses. © 2013.

Li J.,Peking University | Li J.,University of California at Berkeley | McCarthy T.M.,Panthera | Wang H.,Peking University | And 8 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2016

Rapid warming in High Asia is threatening its unique ecosystem and endemic species, especially the endangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia). Snow leopards inhabit the alpine zone between snow line and tree line, which contracts and expands greatly during glacier-interglacial cycles. Here we assess impacts of climate change on global snow leopard habitat from the last glacial maximum (LGM; 21 kyr ago) to the late 21st century. Based on occurrence records of snow leopards collected across all snow leopard range countries from 1983 to 2015, we built a snow leopard habitat model using the maximum entropy algorithm (MaxEnt 3.3.3k). Then we projected this model into LGM, mid-Holocene and 2070. Analysis of snow leopard habitat map from LGM to 2070 indicates that three large patches of stable habitat have persisted from the LGM to present in the Altai, Qilian, and Tian Shan-Pamir-Hindu Kush-Karakoram mountain ranges, and are projected to persist through the late 21st century. These climatically suitable areas account for about 35% of the snow leopard's current extent, are large enough to support viable populations, and should function as refugia for snow leopards to survive through both cold and warm periods. Existence of these refugia is largely due to the unique mountain environment in High Asia, which maintains a relatively constant arid or semi-arid climate. However, habitat loss leading to fragmentation in the Himalaya and Hengduan Mountains, as well as increasing human activities, will present conservation challenges for snow leopards and other sympatric species. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd

Li J.,Peking University | Wang D.,Peking University | Yin H.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | Zhaxi D.,Qinghai Snowland Great Rivers Environmental Protection Association | And 12 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2014

The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) inhabits the rugged mountains in 12 countries of Central Asia, including the Tibetan Plateau. Due to poaching, decreased abundance of prey, and habitat degradation, it was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1972. Current conservation strategies, including nature reserves and incentive programs, have limited capacities to protect snow leopards. We investigated the role of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in snow leopard conservation in the Sanjiangyuan region in China's Qinghai Province on the Tibetan Plateau. From 2009 to 2011, we systematically surveyed snow leopards in the Sanjiangyuan region. We used the MaxEnt model to determine the relation of their presence to environmental variables (e.g., elevation, ruggedness) and to predict snow leopard distribution. Model results showed 89,602 km2 of snow leopard habitat in the Sanjiangyuan region, of which 7674 km2 lay within Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve's core zones. We analyzed the spatial relation between snow leopard habitat and Buddhist monasteries and found that 46% of monasteries were located in snow leopard habitat and 90% were within 5 km of snow leopard habitat. The 336 monasteries in the Sanjiangyuan region could protect more snow leopard habitat (8342 km2) through social norms and active patrols than the nature reserve's core zones. We conducted 144 household interviews to identify local herders' attitudes and behavior toward snow leopards and other wildlife. Most local herders claimed that they did not kill wildlife, and 42% said they did not kill wildlife because it was a sin in Buddhism. Our results indicate monasteries play an important role in snow leopard conservation. Monastery-based snow leopard conservation could be extended to other Tibetan Buddhist regions that in total would encompass about 80% of the global range of snow leopards. © 2013 Society for Conservation Biology.

Stefanski S.F.,Yale University | Stefanski S.F.,Duke University | Shi X.,Yale University | Shi X.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | And 3 more authors.
Forest Policy and Economics | Year: 2015

Reforestation and forest conservation are important issues in the Panama Canal Watershed (PCW). Uncertainty remains about relative net benefits of profit-maximizing timber rotations compared to the net present value of incumbent land uses such as cattle ranching. The scientific and popular literatures have displayed enthusiasm for teak (Tectona grandis) and native species plantations. We estimate a realistic yield model for teak, an exotic tree species, based on growth data from actual small scale landholders who were incentivized to convert lands to teak plantations. We use a suite of well fit yield models to solve for the optimal Faustmann rotation and compute the net present value (NPV) of a teak plantation to a private land manager as a starting point for understanding land-use patterns. We compare the NPV from forestry to cattle and find that site characteristics, discount rates, and market prices are all important factors in influencing the land manager's decision to switch from cattle ranching to plantation forestry. We find that traditional cattle ranching is economically competitive, in terms of NPV, with and may often outperform teak plantations within the PCW. This result is robust to the teak yield model selected. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

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