Snow Leopard Conservancy

Sonoma, CA, United States

Snow Leopard Conservancy

Sonoma, CA, United States
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Mallon D.P.,Manchester Metropolitan University | Jackson R.M.,Snow Leopard Conservancy
ORYX | Year: 2017

Assessments of biodiversity status are needed to track trends, and the IUCN Red List has become the accepted global standard for documenting the extinction risk of species. Obtaining robust data on population size is an essential component of any assessment of a species’ status, including assessments for the IUCN Red List. Obtaining such estimates is complicated by methodological and logistical issues, which are more pronounced in the case of cryptic species, such as the snow leopard Panthera uncia. Estimates of the total population size of this species have, to date, been based on little more than guesstimates, but a comprehensive summary of recent field research indicates that the conservation status of the snow leopard may be less dire than previously thought. A revised categorization, from Endangered to Vulnerable, on the IUCN Red List was proposed but met some opposition, as did a recent, similar recategorization of the giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca. Possible factors motivating such attitudes are discussed. Downlisting on the IUCN Red List indicates that the species concerned is further from extinction, and is always to be welcomed, whether resulting from successful conservation intervention or improved knowledge of status and trends. Celebrating success is important to reinforce the message that conservation works, and to incentivize donors. Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2017

Janecka J.E.,Texas A&M University | Janecka J.E.,Duquesne University | Jackson R.,Snow Leopard Conservancy | Munkhtsog B.,Mongolian Academy of science | Murphy W.J.,Texas A&M University
Conservation Genetics Resources | Year: 2014

Molecular markers that can effectively identify noninvasively collected samples and provide genetic information are critical for understanding the distribution, status, and ecology of snow leopards (Panthera uncia). However, the low DNA quantity and quality in many noninvasive samples such as scats makes PCR amplification and genotyping challenging. We therefore designed primers for 9 microsatellites loci previously isolated in the domestic cat (Felis catus) specifically for snow leopard studies using noninvasive samples. The loci showed moderate levels of variation in two Mongolian snow leopard populations. Combined with seven other loci that we previously described, they have sufficient variation (He = 0.504, An = 3.6) for individual identification and population structure analysis. We designed a species-specific PCR assay using cytochrome b for identification of unknown snow leopard samples. These molecular markers facilitate in depth studies to assess distribution, abundance, population structure, and landscape connectivity of this endangered species. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

News Article | February 15, 2017

More than a quarter of the animals consumed by snow leopards in the central Himalayas are livestock, according to a new study. The finding comes at a time when the iconic species – categorised as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – faces increasing threats, especially human-wildlife conflict and climate change, and when stakeholders around the world are stepping up conservation efforts. Snow leopards are elusive denizens of alpine habitats up to 5800 metres above sea level in Asia. According to the IUCN, the total population is estimated to be between 4080 and 6590 individuals, which roam over a range of 2 million square kilometres. Conservation biologist Madhu Chetri of the Inland Norway University of Applied Science and his colleagues analysed 347 scat samples that had been collected across 5000 square kilometres in the central Himalayas in Nepal. About half of the scat samples could be verified as belonging to snow leopards, and by analysing the DNA of hairs in the faeces, the team found that livestock, especially goats and horses, constituted 27 per cent of the snow leopard diet. Males were twice as likely to prey on livestock than females – a phenomenon the team says might be because sexual selection has favoured high-reward activities among males even though the associated risks, such as retaliating killing, may be higher. “It’s a really important study because so little is known about those mysterious creatures,” says Koustubh Sharma, international coordinator of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program, created by the 12 countries in which snow leopards live. “The data will lay the foundation for conservation action in the region.” “The results match our understanding of snow-leopard behaviours in other parts of the world,” says Sharma. “But prey preference at different locations can vary greatly. So this kind of study is crucial for a greater insight into the situation at each location and for monitoring how it may evolve.” Finding out what the leopards are eating, and where, is important because “human-wildlife conflict due to livestock depredation is on the rise throughout the snow-leopard range”, says Rodney Jackson, founder of the Snow Leopard Conservancy in Sonoma, California. “Humans and their livestock are increasingly going into snow-leopard habitats in more remote and higher-altitude areas,” says Jackson. This has been driven partly by population growth and an increasing number of livestock and partly by a warmer climate which allows herders to spend more time at higher elevations for longer, he adds. A report released last October by TRAFFIC – an NGO in Cambridge, UK, monitoring wildlife trade – estimates that between 221 and 450 snow leopards have been killed annually since 2008, over half of them in retaliation for attacks on livestock. It’s crucial to establish good herding practices to allow humans and snow leopard to live together better, researchers say. For example, herders should avoid high-risk areas,  says Jackson. Meanwhile, people should be given training for alternative livelihoods, he says, so some family members could generate income that is not livestock-based. Hopefully with time, Jackson says, “they could reduce the size of the flocks that go out there, so there would be less conflict”. The latest study “is just a dot in a vast landscape”, says Sharma. “Much more work is needed to build a strong knowledge base upon which we could decide how best to engage with local communities.” Read more: Hundreds of endangered wild snow leopards are killed each year

Rosen T.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Hussain S.,Trinity College at Hartford | Mohammad G.,Project Snow Leopard | Jackson R.,Snow Leopard Conservancy | And 2 more authors.
Mountain Research and Development | Year: 2012

While the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent, physically and culturally, the wildlife of remote mountain regions is being affected both positively and negatively by such interconnectedness. In the case of snow leopards, the conservation impact has been largely, and rather unexpectedly, positive: Species-focused conservation projects, such as Project Snow Leopard (PSL) in Gilgit-Baltistan, remain mainly externally driven initiatives. PSL, initiated as a small pilot project in 1998, has relied on an approach that includes the use of an insurance scheme, the deployment of mitigation measures, and the empowerment of local governance. This approach has been successful in reducing the conflict with snow leopards and has built greater tolerance toward them. PSL is managed by local communities and cofinanced by them. PSL communities throughout the region are bearing the burden of carnivore conservation, and they are unwittingly subsidizing their populations by "feeding" them their livestock even though they are an economic threat to them. In this article, we argue that external intervention in the form of efforts that help alleviate the consequences of conflict through local empowerment have had a positive impact on the local mountain societies. We also show that such interventions have resulted in tangible conservation results, with the number of snow leopards staying at least stable. Our experience also shows that while the incentive component is critical, it is also part of a larger approachone that includes developing and supporting local governance structures, improving access to education, and offering a range of tools to reduce the conflict that can be implemented locally. Finally, we suggest that investing in this approachone that recognizes the species and local-context complexities surrounding the implementation of conservation incentivescan continue to inform international practices and guidelines for reducing humanwildlife conflicts worldwide. © International Mountain Society.

Janecka J.E.,Texas A&M University | Munkhtsog B.,Mongolian Academy of science | Jackson R.M.,Snow Leopard Conservancy | Naranbaatar G.,Mongolian Academy of science | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Mammalogy | Year: 2011

The endangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is widely but sparsely distributed throughout the mountainous regions of central Asia. Detailed information on the status and abundance of the snow leopard is limited because of the logistical challenges faced when working in the rugged terrain it occupies, along with its secretive nature. Camera-trapping and noninvasive genetic techniques have been used successfully to survey this felid. We compared noninvasive genetic and camera-trapping snow leopard surveys in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. We collected 180 putative snow leopard scats from 3 sites during an 8-day period along 37.74 km of transects. We then conducted a 65-day photographic survey at 1 of these sites, approximately 2 months after scat collection. In the site where both techniques were used noninvasive genetics detected 5 individuals in only 2 days of fieldwork compared to 7 individuals observed in the 65-day camera-trapping session. Estimates of population size from noninvasive genetics ranged between 16 and 19 snow leopards in the 314.3-km 2 area surveyed, yielding densities of 4.95.9 individuals/100 km 2. In comparison, the population estimate from the 65-day photographic survey was 4 individuals (adults only) within the 264-km 2 area, for a density estimate of 1.5 snow leopards/100 km 2. Higher density estimates from the noninvasive genetic survey were due partly to an inability to determine age and exclude subadults, reduced spatial distribution of sampling points as a consequence of collecting scats along linear transects, and deposition of scats by multiple snow leopards on common sites. Resulting differences could inflate abundance estimated from noninvasive genetic surveys and prevent direct comparison of densities derived from the 2 approaches unless appropriate adjustments are made to the study design. © 2011 American Society of Mammalogists.

Anwar M.B.,Pmas Arid Agriculture University | Jackson R.,Snow Leopard Conservancy | Nadeem M.S.,Pmas Arid Agriculture University | Janecka J.E.,Texas A&M University | And 4 more authors.
European Journal of Wildlife Research | Year: 2011

The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) inhabits the high, remote mountains of Pakistan from where very little information is available on prey use of this species. Our study describes the food habits of the snow leopard in the Himalayas and Karakoram mountain ranges in Baltistan, Pakistan. Ninety-five putrid snow leopard scats were collected from four sites in Baltistan. Of these, 49 scats were genetically confirmed to have originated from snow leopards. The consumed prey was identified on the basis of morphological characteristics of hairs recovered from the scats. It was found that most of the biomass consumed (70%) was due to domestic livestock viz. sheep (23%), goat (16%), cattle (10%), yak (7%), and cattle-yak hybrids (14%). Only 30% of the biomass was due to wild species, namely Siberian ibex (21%), markhor (7%), and birds (2%). Heavy predation on domestic livestock appeared to be the likely cause of conflict with the local inhabitants. Conservation initiatives should focus on mitigating this conflict by minimizing livestock losses. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.

Jackson R.M.,Snow Leopard Conservancy
Human Dimensions of Wildlife | Year: 2015

Over the past decade important advances have been made toward addressing human–wildlife conflict associated with the endangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia). Engaging and motivating stakeholders through more participatory protocols remains a vital ingredient toward the design, implementation, and of monitoring robust, long-lasting, and locally adapted solutions that stress the community’s collective and positive visions for the change. Co-existence with this predator can be best achieved by empowering rural communities and helping them forge more harmonious and eco-centric relationships with their environment, one in which snow leopards are perceived as valued assets rather than pests to be eliminated. The Global Snow Leopard Environmental Plan endorsed in 2013 by all 12 snow leopard range countries offers a possible blueprint for this transformational process to take place. The major challenge rests with securing the necessary financing and the scaling up of remedial interventions to landscape levels across the range states. Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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