Alumnus, High Altitudes
PhD in Wildlife Science, Nature Conservation Foundation, Wildlife Institute of India, Snow Leopard Trust
M.Sc. Environment Management, Forest Research Institute University, Dehradun, India
B.Sc. Zoology (H), University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India
My broad research interests lie in distribution patterns of large mammals, ecological-social-cultural determinants of species persistence in a landscape, co-occurrence-competition dynamics, impact of socio-economic development and resource extraction/use in wildlife rich areas, interactions and impact of non-native species on native wildlife and human-wildlife interactions and/or conflict. I am particularly interested in the high altitude landscapes of the Himalaya and Trans-Himalaya, although tropical ecosystems intrigue me equally.
I am currently involved in research on high altitude mammals. For my post-doctoral research I'm looking at depredation ecology of snow leopards in relation to domestic and wild-prey. For PhD, I examined how snow leopard and its primary prey bharal and Asiatic ibex are distributed in the Himalaya and Trans-Himalaya ranges of Himachal Pradesh and what affects their distribution at multiple scales. I also looked at how migratory livestock grazing impacts vegetation and wild-prey of snow leopard.
My previous works include surveying northern Himachal for understanding occurrences of snow leopard and its prey using secondary information. For my M.Sc. dissertation I looked at how a commensal species, red fox, responds towards village size and free-ranging dog. I have been involved in snow leopard and prey population estimation surveys, management planning and capacity building.
Response of red fox to village expansion
How does red fox respond to increasing village size in the Trans-Himalaya?
- Journal Article2019Distribution and activity pattern of stone marten Martes foina in relation to prey and predatorsMammalian Biology; Volume 96, May 2019, Pages 110-117Download
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Small carnivores are expected to optimize their activity to maximize prey capture and minimize their encounter with predators. We assessed the activity pattern of the stone marten
Martes foinain relation to its potential prey, the Himalayan woolly hare Lepus oiostolus and the Royle’s pika Ochotona roylei, and its predators, the red fox Vulpes vulpesand the free-ranging dog Canis familiaris. Using three years of camera trapping data from the Indian Trans-Himalaya, we estimated individual and pair-wise spatio-temporal niche width and overlap, respectively, using Levins’ asymmetric index. Stone martens showed limited space use (spatial niche width 0.16) and nocturnal activity (temporal niche width 0.35). They had high temporal (0.75) and low spatial overlap (0.05) with hares; while they had relatively low temporal (0.33) but higher spatial overlap (0.29) with pikas. Red foxes showed relatively high temporal (1.21) and spatial (0.75) overlap with martens, while free-ranging dogs showed low temporal (0.23) and spatial (0.03) overlap with martens. Although restricted space and time use by pikas might help martens track pikas even with relatively low spatio-temporal overlap, martens may be benefiting from higher temporal overlap with hares. While martens seem to be co-existing with foxes, their nocturnal activity might be driven by a trade-off between consuming prey and avoidance of diurnal predators like dogs.
- Journal Article2018Local community neutralizes traditional wolf traps and builds a stupaOryx
- Conference Proceedings2018Snow leopard and prey: Landscape-level distribution modeling & impacts of migratory livestock grazing in Symposium Assimilated Knowledges: an integrated approach to conservation in snow leopard landscapesConservation Asia, 2018, Society for Conservation Biology
- Popular Article2018When shepherds must kill their lambsSanctuary Asia, August issue, Pages 71-72
- Journal Article2017Snow Leopard, Ecology and Conservation Issues in IndiaResonance, Indian Academy of Sciences, DOI 10.1007/s12045-017-0511-0Download
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Snow leopard, an elusive mammal species of the cat family, is the top-predator of the Central and South Asian, highaltitude ecosystem. Snow leopards occur at low densities across the Central Asian mountains and the Indian Himalayan region. Owing to their secretive nature and inaccessible habitat, little is known about its ecology and distribution. Due to its endangered status and high aesthetic value, the snow leopard is considered as an ‘umbrella species’ for wildlife conservation in the Indian Himalayas. This article summarizes the current knowledge on snow leopard ecology and conservation issues in the Indian context.
- Dataset2017Data from: Assessing changes in distribution of the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia and its wild prey over 2 decades in the Indian Himalaya through interview-based occupancy surveys.DOI: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.hp4b3
The data set has occupancy values and local extinction probability values for 88 grids/sites of 15km X 15km each, for snow leopard, blue sheep, Asiatic ibex and wild prey (blue sheep and ibex combined), across an area of 14,616 sq.km in the Himalaya and Trans-Himalaya mountains of Himachal Pradesh, India.
- Journal Article2017Assessing changes in distribution of the Endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia and its wild prey over 2 decades in the Indian Himalaya through interviewbased occupancy surveysdoi:10.1017/S0030605317001107Download
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Understanding species distributions, patterns of change and threats can form the basis for assessing the conservation status of elusive species that are difficult to survey. The snow leopard Panthera uncia is the top predator of the Central and South Asian mountains. Knowledge of the distribution and status of this elusive felid and its wild prey is limited. Using recall-based key-informant interviews we estimated site use by snow leopards and their primary wild prey, blue sheep Pseudois nayaur and Asiatic ibex Capra sibirica, across two time periods (past: –; recent: –) in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. We also conducted a threat assessment for the recent period. Probability of site use was similar across the two time periods for snow leopards, blue sheep and ibex, whereas for wild prey (blue sheep and ibex combined) overall there was an % contraction. Although our surveys were conducted in areas within the presumed distribution range of the snow leopard, we found snow leopards were using only % of the area (, km). Blue sheep and ibex had distinct distribution ranges. Snow leopards and their wild prey were not restricted to protected areas, which encompassed only % of their distribution within the study area. Migratory livestock grazing was pervasive across ibex distribution range and was the most widespread and serious conservation threat. Depredation by free-ranging dogs, and illegal hunting and wildlife trade were the other severe threats. Our results underscore the importance of community-based, landscape- scale conservation approaches and caution against reliance on geophysical and opinion-based distribution maps that have been used to estimate national and global snow leopard ranges.
- Conference Proceedings2017Migratory livestock grazing significantly impacts rangeland vegetation and wild-ungulate population in the Indian Trans-Himalaya12th International Mammalogical Congress, 2017. Perth, Australia
Intense livestock grazing outcompetes wild-ungulates in low-productivity rangelands. This is a long-standing and highly debated conservation problem globally. We examined impacts of migratory livestock grazing on Trans-Himalayan rangeland and Asiatic ibex, a wild-ungulate and primary prey of the endangered snow leopard. Vegetation and ibex were sampled in an intensely grazed (livestock density 63 sheep-goat/km2) and ungrazed areas, during spring (before-grazing), summer (during-grazing) and autumn (after-grazing). Proportionate to vegetated area, independent randomly laid 1mX1m plots were sampled for vegetation cover and biomass estimation (Cover: NUngrazed=237; NGrazed=127; Biomass: NUngrazed=119; NGrazed=64). Ibex density and young:adult-female ratios were estimated by repeatedly sampling 17 trails using double-observer method across both treatments for the three time periods and two consecutive years. Graminoid and herb biomass were significantly higher in ungrazed than grazed area (ANOVA; Graminoid: FTreatment=16.05; P=<0.001; Herb: FTreatment=22.75; P=< 0.001). Overall vegetation composition was dissimilar across ungrazed and grazed area (Morisita Index 0.18), however, palatable species composition was similar (Morisita Index 0.70). Biomass of palatable species was 2.25 times higher in ungrazed than grazed area. Total off-take of dry forage by migratory livestock from grazed pastures (61 km2) was 10,658 kgs km-2 over two months of grazing. Ibex density was 1.80-7.0 times higher in ungrazed than grazed area in 2015, while 2.45-4.7 times higher in ungrazed than grazed area during 2016. Ibex yearling:adult-female ratio was six times higher in ungrazed than grazed area. Significant reduction in forage availability lowered ibex density and yearling:adult-female ratios in grazed area, suggesting migratory livestock outcompetes ibex through exploitative competition.
- Popular Article2017From pastures for none to pastures for allSAEVUS, September-November, 36-41
- Report2017Population Density Estimation of Mountain Ungulates from Upper Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh.Khanyari, M., Malgaonkar, A., Ghoshal, A & Suryawanshi, K. (2017) Population Density Estimation of Mountain Ungulates from Upper Kinnaur. Submitted to Himachal Pradesh Forest Department.