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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.

Johansson T.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | McCarthy T.,Panthera | Samelius G.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | Andren H.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | And 3 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2015

Livestock predation is an important cause of endangerment of the snow leopard (. Panthera uncia) across its range. Yet, detailed information on individual and spatio-temporal variation in predation patterns of snow leopards and their kill rates of livestock and wild ungulates are lacking.We collared 19 snow leopards in the Tost Mountains, Mongolia, and searched clusters of GPS positions to identify prey remains and estimate kill rate and prey choice.Snow leopards killed, on average, one ungulate every 8. days, which included more wild prey (73%) than livestock (27%), despite livestock abundance being at least one order of magnitude higher. Predation on herded livestock occurred mainly on stragglers and in rugged areas where animals are out of sight of herders. The two wild ungulates, ibex (. Capra ibex) and argali (. Ovis ammon), were killed in proportion to their relative abundance. Predation patterns changed with spatial (wild ungulates) and seasonal (livestock) changes in prey abundance. Adult male snow leopards killed larger prey and 2-6 times more livestock compared to females and young males. Kill rates were considerably higher than previous scat-based estimates, and kill rates of females were higher than kill rates of males. We suggest that (i) snow leopards prey largely on wild ungulates and kill livestock opportunistically, (ii) retaliatory killing by livestock herders is likely to cause greater mortality of adult male snow leopards compared to females and young males, and (iii) total off-take of prey by a snow leopard population is likely to be much higher than previous estimates suggest. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Johansson O.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | Malmsten J.,National Veterinary Institute | Malmsten J.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | Mishra C.,Snow Leopard Trust | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Diseases | Year: 2013

Conservation and research of the elusive snow leopard (Panthera uncia) have been hampered by inadequate knowledge about its basic life history. Global positioning system (GPS) collars can provide useful information, but there has been limited information available on safe capture methods, drug doses, and efficacy for effective immobilization of free-ranging snow leopards. We describe a drug protocol using a combination of medetomidine and tiletamine-zolazepam for the chemical immobilization of free-ranging snow leopards. We also describe physiologic responses to immobilization drugs, including rectal temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and relative hemoglobin oxygen saturation (SpO2) recorded every 10 min. Our study was carried out in the Tost Mountains adjacent to the Great Gobi Desert, in southern Mongolia, between August 2008 and April 2012. Eighteen snow leopards were captured or recaptured with foot-snares on 42 occasions and anesthetized for marking with GPS collars. The snow leopards received on average (±SD) 0.020±0.04 mg/kg body mass medetomidine and 2.17±0.45 mg/kg tiletamine-zolazepam. The duration of ensuing anesthesia was 69±13 min, including an induction period of 10 (±4) min. Anesthesia was reversed with 4 mg (0.10±0.04 mg/kg) atipamezole administered intramuscularly. The mean value for SpO2 for the 37 captures where we could record physiologic values was 91±4. The SpO2 increased significantly during anesthesia (+0.06±0.02%/min), whereas rectal temperature (average 38.1±0.7 C/min, change -0.04±0.003 C/min), heart rate (average 97±9 beats/min, change -0.20±0.03 beats/min), and respiratory rate (average 26±6 breaths/min, change -0.11±0.03 breaths/min) decreased significantly. A dose of 80 mg tiletamine-zolazepam (2 mg/kg body weight) and 0.72 mg medetomidine (0.02 mg/kg body weight) safely immobilized all adult and subadult snow leopards (weight 25-45 kg) in our study. All measured physiologic values remained within clinically acceptable limits. © Wildlife Disease Association 2013.

News Article | October 22, 2016

The report estimates that between 221 and 450 snow leopards have been killed since 2008, but notes that the number could be higher since killings in remote areas go undetected and it is difficult to monitor the trade of big cats. Approximately 4,000 snow leopards live across central Asia, but humans have killed as many as 450 since 2008. These killings are largely carried out by either poachers, who hope to sell the animal’s valuable pelts, claws, and teeth, or by herders, whose livestock has been preyed on by snow leopards. These numbers come via a newly published report by Traffic a wildlife trade monitoring network that is a collaboration between the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Foundation. The report estimates that between 221 and 450 snow leopards have been killed since 2008, but notes that the number could be higher since killings in remote areas go undetected and it is difficult to monitor the trade of big cats. Some see survival prospects as bleak for the big cats. However, in Kyrgyzstan – where the remaining snow leopards are found in relatively large numbers – new conservation models have shown some signs of progress. Between poachers and herders, it may be that herders pose the greater threat to snow leopards. "The snow leopard doesn't turn up that often in markets, what the report authors have concluded is that it's a bit opportunistic, if a snow leopard is killed and the parts or the pelt is saleable it's almost like getting your own back for the livestock you've lost," James Compton of Traffic told BBC News. The Traffic report estimates that while only 21 percent of snow leopards are purposed hunted for sale, 60 percent of snow leopards killed end up on the market. Herders may kill for retaliation, but end up selling for profit. “We think that what most observations, seizure records and expert opinion show is that the majority is still happening because of retaliatory killing,” Compton told BBC News. “One of the major interventions to stop that is better protection for livestock, in some of these very remote areas where you have nomad communities and herds of livestock, because that’s where the friction takes place.” Vicious killers, snow leopards are capable of taking down animals three times their own weight and one snow leopard can kill up to 20 goats or sheep at a time if they are trapped in a pen, Tech Times reports.  For the often impoverished and marginalized mountain communities that rely on herding, loss of livestock to a snow leopard can have a big impact on quality of life. But Kyrgyzstan has become a model for snow leopard conservation as the Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Foundation, in combination with the Kyrgyz government, have been co-managing a former hunting ground as a wildlife sanctuary called Shamshy. Herders can still graze livestock in Shamshy, but with healthy populations of ibex and mountain goat, the snow leopard’s natural prey, conservationists hope that snow leopards will be attracted to the sanctuary but refrain from attacking livestock. According to Kuban Jumabai uulu, the director of the Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan, the population of snow leopards has been increasing as a result of the new policies. “Earlier this year, we had found snow leopard tracks and scratch marks on several ridgelines in Shamshy,” Jumabai uulu tells National Geographic. “ Now, [new camera-trap] pictures prove the cat’s presence in the sanctuary.” The camera-trap method can help scientists calculate population density and assess progress made. Kyrgyzstan is an important strategic location for conservation of the global population of snow leopards as well. “Kyrgyzstan is like [a] bridge between two large snow leopard ranges, and if we lose snow leopard in this country, then it means the global population will be isolated,” Jumabai uulu told National Geographic. “Populations are strong when they are together.”

Chundawat R.S.,BAAVAN Bagh Aap Aur Van | Sharma K.,Snow Leopard Trust | Sharma K.,Nature Conservation Foundation | Gogate N.,Taj Safari Ltd | And 3 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2016

India harbours the largest wild tiger population in the world and Tropical Dry Forest areas constitute the largest habitat for them. Recent extinctions, however, from two high profile tiger reserves, highlight the vulnerability of tiger in this habitat. Our examination of historic range areas for tigers shows that populations are disappearing at a faster rate in Tropical Dry Forest (64% sites suffering local extinction in 100 years) than in any other suitable habitat in India. Focusing on data from the Tropical Dry Forest of Panna Tiger Reserve in central India, we examine the spatial ecology of the tiger population prior to its local extinction. We analyse home range sizes, overlaps and shifts, as well as the range expansion and contraction of radio-collared tigers between 1996 and 2005. In this reserve, the average annual home range sizes for both males (n = 2) and females (n = 4) were three to four times larger than those reported so far from other tropical habitats in India - male: mean 179.3 ± 11.8 km2 (95% Fixed kernel; n = 7); female: mean 46.6 ± 3.7 km2; (95% Fixed kernel; n = 16). Adult female home ranges were exclusive and overlapped little with neighbouring female ranges (3 ± 1.46%, n = 6). Male home ranges were not exclusive: resident floater males shared space with territorial males and mated with resident females. Home ranges of all breeding radio-collared tigers extended beyond the protected area boundary and were exposed to edge effects that exist at the periphery and outside. With such spatial use patterns, security and management measures provided within the boundary are unlikely to be very successful in protecting the population. Protected Areas in Tropical Dry Forest across India are relatively small (366.92 ± 422.12 km2 SD) and historical trends point towards a scale-mismatch that exists between the size of Protected Areas and the space use requirements of tigers. This scale mismatch adds to the vulnerability of existing small populations and perhaps explains why tiger populations in Tropical Dry Forest have disappeared at a faster rate than in any other tiger habitat of the sub-continent. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

News Article | October 26, 2016

Hundreds of snow leopards are being killed by poachers every year across the high mountain ranges of Asia, according to a new report. It's estimated there are just 4,000 of these elegant but elusive creatures now surviving in the wild. Around four a week are being poached say experts, with most killed by local people in revenge for livestock losses. The report highlights concerns that the illegal trade in snow leopard skins is moving online to evade the law. The highly camouflaged snow leopard is found across 12 countries that sweep around the Himalayan and Tibetan plateaus. These include China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan as well as Mongolia, Tajikistan and Russia. The animals normally live at altitudes between 1,000 and 5,400 metres above sea level. Insulated against the cold by thick hair and fur covered feet, these nomadic leopards prey upon blue sheep and mountain ibex and other smaller creatures. Given that they can kill animals three times their weight, their ability to hunt domestic sheep and cattle brings them into difficulties with farmers across their ranges. According to this new study between 221 and 450 snow leopards have been poached every year since 2008. The authors say that while that number could be substantially higher, the main cause is human-wildlife conflict. "We think that what most observations, seizure records and expert opinion shows is that the majority is still happening because of retaliatory killing," said James Compton from Traffic. "One of the major interventions to stop that is better protection for livestock, in some of these very remote areas where you have nomad communities and herds of livestock, because that's where the friction takes place." Over 90% of the reported poaching occurred in just five countries, China, Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Tajikistan. The report also suggests that only 21% of snow leopards were poached specifically for the illegal trade - but there seem to be many expedient attempts to cash in on the value of the skins and bones of these animals when they are killed. "The snow leopard doesn't turn up that often in markets, what the report authors have concluded is that it's a bit opportunistic, if a snow leopard is killed and the parts or the pelt is saleable it's almost like getting your own back for the livestock you've lost," said James Compton. One of the worries is the rise of clandestine sales on social media and e-commerce. As well as skins and furs there is a market online for claws and teeth, which are advertised as having medicinal properties. With a third of the snow leopard's range falling along international borders that have seen considerable conflict in recent years, the report calls for greater cross-border co-operation, especially on law enforcement. At present just a quarter of known cases of poaching are investigated. The study also calls for greater incentives for local communities to protect these iconic animals. "Even if there is reduced demand for snow leopard skins, the killing will continue unless we all work together to drastically reduce human-wildlife conflict and ensure that mountain communities can co-exist with snow leopards," said Rishi Sharma, from WWF who is a co-author of the report. "Compensation schemes and innovative predator-proof corrals are making a difference but we urgently need to expand these to benefit communities - and snow leopards - across Asia's high mountains." While there is increasing pressure on snow leopards from humans and a changing climate, there have been some successful attempts to reverse these trends. In Kyrgyzstan, an initiative involving the government and conservationists has seen a former hunting concession in Shamshy turned into a wildlife sanctuary. The growth in the numbers of ibex has seen a number of snow leopards re-enter the area, as evidenced by photographs. "The first camera trapped images of these elusive big cats to come from the area are a powerful reminder that, if we work together we can secure key wildlife habitats so that species like the snow leopard are given the levels of protection needed to survive," said Sally Case from the David Shepherd Foundation, who are working with the Kyrgyz government and the Snow Leopard Trust to develop the Shamshy sanctuary. While the area is too small to be able to host a sizeable snow leopard population, it could serve as the core of a larger habitat in years to come. "We are thrilled to see that the snow leopard is already in Shamshy," said Musaev Almaz, from the Kyrgyz government's department of rational use of natural resources. "This cat is an important part of our national culture and heritage, we are committed to securing its future." Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathBBC and on Facebook.

News Article | October 22, 2016

Alarm bells are ringing about the rapid decline of snow leopards in the high mountain ranges of many Asian countries. According to a new report, nearly 90 percent of the poaching is happening in countries such as China, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. The report from wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said only 4,000 snow leopards are left now. It also voiced concerns over the illegal trade in snow leopard skins going online, evading the eyes of law enforcing agencies. In addition to skins, the teeth, claws and bones of snow leopards are in high demand. Found in 12 countries around the Himalayan plateaus at altitudes between 1,000 and 5,400 meters above sea level, the leopards survive in the cold because of hairy coats and furry feet. Yet another study published in the journal Biological Conservation cautioned that two-thirds of the snow leopards' alpine habitat will become extinct by 2070 because of global warming. According to the new study, poaching has intensified since 2008 with an average 450 snow leopards getting killed annually. Noting that half of the leopards are killed by herders as revenge for preying on their livestock, the report said, only 21 percent of snow leopards are targeted for claws, pelts, teeth, and bones, which are then sold through illegal channels. "We think that what most observations, seizure records, and expert opinion shows are that the majority is still happening because of retaliatory killing," said James Compton from TRAFFIC. One report also talked about snow leopards hunting linked to their use in traditional Chinese medicines. There is, however, hope. Conservation efforts of the Kyrgyzstan government are a case in point. They have saved several snow leopards from destruction by turning the hunting ground, Shamshy, near capital Bishkek, into a sanctuary. It is going to be co-managed by the Snow Leopard Trust and the Snow Leopard Foundation. Such a transformation of hunting ground into wildlife refuge has been rare. According to Kuban Jumabai Uulu, director of the Snow Leopard Foundation, the conservation efforts in Shamshy are showing good results with a clear spurt in the numbers of snow leopards. Conservation apart, the need for local communities to protect the depleting animal stock has been underscored in the TRAFFIC report. With the need for killing to stop, Rishi Sharma, co-author of the report, said there is the requirement to work together in reducing the conflict between farmers and wildlife so that mountain communities can co-exist with snow leopards. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Din J.U.,Snow Leopard Trust | Nawaz M.A.,University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences
Journal of Animal and Plant Sciences | Year: 2010

The Eurasian lynx, listed Near Threatened in IUCN Red List, has one of the widest ranges of all cat species. Its Himalayan populations are known to be distributed in northern Pakistan, including Chitral district. However, actual status of the species and its real distribution limits are not known in Pakistan. This study provides an assessment of the status and distribution of the Himalayan Lynx in Chitral District, NWFP along with intensity of its conflicts with humans. Lynx occurrence was confirmed through public reports and livestock depredation cases were documented in five tehsils of the district. One hundred and sixty-four reports of lynx occurrence and 214 incidents of livestock depredation were recorded from 2001-2008 in an area of 14,850km2 of the district. Highest reports were from the Mastuj and lowest from the Torkhow tehsil. Livestock especially sheep lambs and goat kids were the major victims of lynx attack followed by poultry. This livestock loss means an economic hardship for the poor communities, thus, is a major source of human-cat conflicts. The prime threats to the existence of carnivores were retaliatory killing, loss of natural prey-base, loss of habitat, overpopulation, and lack of awareness and support.

Sharma K.,Snow Leopard Trust | Sharma K.,Nature Conservation Foundation | Wright B.,Wildlife Protection Society of India | Joseph T.,Wildlife Protection Society of India | Desai N.,Wildlife Protection Society of India
Biological Conservation | Year: 2014

Poaching, prey depletion and habitat destruction have decimated the world's wild tiger population to fewer than 3200-4000. Despite focused efforts, poaching continues to be the key threat to tiger populations in India, home to more than half of the world's tigers. A rise in the number of incidences of tiger poaching and trafficking may not essentially represent an increase in the actual occurrence of tiger poaching and trafficking, but can instead be an indication of better enforcement. With ad hoc detection rates, it becomes difficult to estimate the true quantum of poaching and the efficiency of enforcement. We empirically estimate the probability of occurrence of tiger crime and that of detecting it during periods of 3-7. years in the past 40. years in the 605 districts of India. We test the hypotheses that tiger crime is influenced by the presence of tiger trade hubs, proximity to a number of tiger habitats, and that tiger poachers prefer to use rail routes over road highways. The annual probability of detecting tiger crime was estimated to be highest (0.46, 95% CI=. 0.38-0.54) in the period between 1993 and 1995. Our results identify 73 districts as current tiger crime hotspots with high (>0.5) probability of occurrence of tiger crime. We propose that the probability of occurrence of tiger crime can be a more reliable estimator of changing poaching pressures and that probability of detecting tiger crime provides a robust estimate of the efficiency in tackling tiger poaching and trafficking. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Berger J.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Buuveibaatar B.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Mishra C.,Snow Leopard Trust | Mishra C.,Nature Conservation Foundation
Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

As drivers of terrestrial ecosystems, humans have replaced large carnivores in most areas, and human influence not only exerts striking ecological pressures on biodiversity at local scales but also has indirect effects in distant corners of the world. We suggest that the multibillion dollar cashmere industry creates economic motivations that link western fashion preferences for cashmere to land use in Central Asia. This penchant for stylish clothing, in turn, encourages herders to increase livestock production which affects persistence of over 6 endangered large mammals in these remote, arid ecosystems. We hypothesized that global trade in cashmere has strong negative effects on native large mammals of deserts and grassland where cashmere-producing goats are raised. We used time series data, ecological snapshots of the biomass of native and domestic ungulates, and ecologically and behaviorally based fieldwork to test our hypothesis. In Mongolia increases in domestic goat production were associated with a 3-fold increase in local profits for herders coexisting with endangered saiga (Saiga tatarica).That increasing domestic grazing pressure carries fitness consequences was inferred on the basis of an approximately 4-fold difference in juvenile recruitment among blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur)in trans-Himalayan India. Across 7 study areas in Mongolia, India, and China's Tibetan Plateau, native ungulate biomass is now <5% that of domestic species. Such trends suggest ecosystem degradation and decreased capacity for the persistence of native species, including at least 8 Asian endemic species: saiga, chiru (Pantholops hodgsoni), Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus), snow leopard(Panthera uncia), khulan(Equus hemionus), kiang (E. kiang), takhi (E. przewalski), and wild yak (Bos mutus). Our results suggest striking yet indirect and unintended actions that link trophic-level effects to markets induced by the trade for cashmere. © 2013 Society for Conservation Biology.

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