Goats and Wild Goats

Forage tussles between Himalayan ibex and livestock

Our work in the Trans-Himalaya has established that changing patterns of livestock grazing have resulted in a decline in the density and diversity of wild herbivores in this region. The most plausible cause seems to be forage-limitations that livestock can impose on wild herbivores

Introduction

Our work in the Trans-Himalaya has established that changing patterns of livestock grazing have resulted in a decline in the density and diversity of wild herbivores in this region. The most plausible cause seems to be forage-limitations that livestock can impose on wild herbivores.

Pin Valley National Park in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, holds key importance for conservation of the snow leopard and the Himalayan ibex Capra sibirica, and this project aimed at understanding the relationships between livestock grazing practices and the conservation of the ibex. We aimed to develop a better understanding of forage relations between domestic and wild herbivores, and thereby help the protected area staff in framing grazing practices that are more harmonious with conservation objectives. 

To ascertain the degree and nature of threats faced by the ibex from seven livestock species that graze in the pastures of Pin Valley, we studied their resource use patterns over space, habitat and food dimensions. Species diet profiles were obtained by direct observations. We assessed the similarity in habitat use and diets of ibex and livestock using multivariate statistical tools like Non-Metric Multidimensional Scaling. We estimated the influence of the spatial distribution (physical presence) of livestock on habitat and diet choice of ibex by examining their co-occurrence patterns using computer-aided tools like Monte-Carlo simulations. 

Results

The results suggest that goats and sheep impose resource limitations on ibex and exclude them from the pastures. In the remaining suitable habitat, ibex share forage with horses. Ibex are relatively unaffected by other livestock such as yaks, donkeys and cattle. However, most livestock removed large amounts of forage from the pastures (upto 250 kg of dry matter/day), thereby reducing forage availability for ibex. 

These results show that ibex is not threatened by all types of livestock that use Pin Valley, and conservation action should target goat-sheep as a priority. This calls for dialogues between conservation agencies and governmental stakeholders like the wildlife department with the grazers regarding their traditional rights and concessions.

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