- 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 Article2019Sampling bias in snow leopard population estimation studiesPopulation Ecology 10.1002/1438-390X.1027Download
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Accurate assessments of the status of threatened species and their conservation planning require reliable estimation of their global populations and robust monitoring of local population trends. We assessed the adequacy and suitability of studies in reliably estimating the global snow leopard (Panthera uncia) population. We compiled a dataset of all the peer-reviewed published literature on snow leopard population estimation. Metadata analysis showed estimates of snow leopard density to be a negative exponential function of area, suggesting that study areas have generally been too small for accurate density estimation, and sampling has often been biased towards the best habitats. Published studies are restricted to six of the 12 range countries, covering only 0.3–0.9% of the presumed global range of the species. Re-sampling of camera trap data from a relatively large study site (c.1684 km2) showed that small-sized study areas together with a bias towards good quality habitats in existing studies may have overestimated densities by up to five times. We conclude that current information is biased and inadequate for generating a reliable global population estimate of snow leopards. To develop a rigorous and useful baseline and to avoid pitfalls, there is an urgent need for (a) refinement of sampling and analytical protocols for population estimation of snow leopards (b) agreement and coordinated use of standardized sampling protocols amongst researchers and governments across the range, and (c) sampling larger and under-represented areas of the snow leopard's global range.
- Report2018Understanding distribution, population density and conservation status of the endemic and threatened Ladakh urial Ovis orientalis vignei
- Book Chapter2018Living with Snow Leopards: a pluralistic approach to conservationIn Conservation from the Margins. (Eds) Umesh Srinivasan & Nandini Velho. Orient Blackswan
- Report2018Population assessment of the Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) using the Double-observer Survey method in the Anamalai Tiger ReserveTechnical Report, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, India
- Popular Article2018When shepherds must kill their lambsSanctuary Asia, August issue, Pages 71-72
- Book Chapter2018Large Carnivore and Conservation and Management
- 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
- Journal Article2018Local community neutralizes traditional wolf traps and builds a stupaOryx
- Journal Article2017Impact of wild prey availability on livestock predation by snow leopards.Royal Society Open Science, 4(6), 170026.Download
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An increasing proportion of the world's poor is rearing livestock today, and the global livestock population is growing. Livestock predation by large carnivores and their retaliatory killing is becoming an economic and conservation concern. A common recommendation for carnivore conservation and for reducing predation on livestock is to increase wild prey populations based on the assumption that the carnivores will consume this alternative food. Livestock predation, however, could either reduce or intensify with increases in wild prey depending on prey choice and trends in carnivore abundance. We show that the extent of livestock predation by the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia intensifies with increases in the density of wild ungulate prey, and subsequently stabilizes. We found that snow leopard density, estimated at seven sites, was a positive linear function of the density of wild ungulates—the preferred prey—and showed no discernible relationship with livestock density. We also found that modelled livestock predation increased with livestock density. Our results suggest that snow leopard conservation would benefit from an increase in wild ungulates, but that would intensify the problem of livestock predation for pastoralists. The potential benefits of increased wild prey abundance in reducing livestock predation can be overwhelmed by a resultant increase in snow leopard populations. Snow leopard conservation efforts aimed at facilitating increases in wild prey must be accompanied by greater assistance for better livestock protection and offsetting the economic damage caused by carnivores.
- 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.
- Book Chapter2017Birds in Relation to Farming and Livestock Grazing in the Indian Trans-HimalayasIn Bird Migration across the Himalayas: Wetland Functioning amidst Mountains and Glaciers
- Report2017Valuation of Ecosystem Services in Snow Leopard Landscapes of AsiaMurali, R., Lkhagvajav, P., Saeed, U., Kizi, V.A., Zhumbai-Uulu, K., Nawaz, M.A., Bhatnagar, Y.V., Sharma, K., Mishra, C. 2017. Valuation of ecosystem services in snow leopard landscapes of Asia. Snow Leopard Trust, Nature Conservation Foundation, Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation, Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan, and Snow Leopard Foundation Pakistan. Report Submitted to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project on Transboundary Cooperation for Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Conservation.
- Journal Article2017The value of ecosystem services in the high altitude Spiti Valley, Indian Trans-Himalayahttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.10.018Download
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The high mountain ranges of South and Central Asia are increasingly being exposed to large-scale development projects. These areas are home to traditional pastoralist communities and internationally important biodiversity including the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia. Development projects rely on economic cost-benefit analysis, but the ecosystem services in the high Himalayas are poorly understood and are rarely accounted for. As a first step to fill this gap, we identified the main ecosystem services used by local people in the Trans-Himalayan Spiti Valley (7591 km2), a region important for conservation of snow leopards and high mountain biodiversity, and undertook an economic valuation. Stakeholders identified a range of services, though these were dominated by provisioning services identified by 90% of respondents. Only 5.4% of the respondents recognised regulatory services and 4.8% recognised cultural services. The mean economic value of provisioning services was estimated at US$ 3622 ± 149 HH−1 yr−1, which was 3.8 times higher than the average annual household income. Our results underscore the need to account for ecosystem services in the cost-benefit analyses of large-scale development projects in addition to assessments of their environmental and social impact.
- 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.
- Popular Article2017A snow leopard family album
- 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.
- 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.
- Dataset2017Data from: Impact of wild prey availability on livestock predation by snow leopardsData Dryad: doi:10.5061/dryad.8p689
- Journal Article2017Commensal in conflict: Livestock depredation patterns by free-ranging domestic dogs in the Upper Spiti Landscape, Himachal Pradesh, IndiaAmbio: doi:10.1007/s13280-016-0858-6Download
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In human-populated landscapes worldwide, domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the most abundant terrestrial carnivore. Although dogs have been used for the protection of livestock from wild carnivores, they have also been implicated as predators of livestock. We used a combination of methods (field surveys, interview surveys, and data from secondary sources) to examine the patterns and factors driving livestock depredation by free-ranging dogs, as well as economic losses to local communities in a Trans-Himalayan agro-pastoralist landscape in India. Our results show that livestock abundance was a better predictor of depredation in the villages than local dog abundance. Dogs mainly killed small-bodied livestock and sheep were the most selected prey. Dogs were responsible for the majority of livestock losses, with losses being comparable to that by snow leopards. This high level of conflict may disrupt community benefits from conservation programs and potentially undermine the conservation efforts in the region through a range of cascading effects.