NCF and the Snow Leopard Trust work together in India’s high altitudes, striving to help conserve the snow leopard – as well as the diversity of life & landscapes that this beautiful cat symbolizes – in a scientifically robust and socially responsible manner. We combine research, community involvement, conservation education, and policy-level dimensions.
Studies on the ecology of animals and their ecosystems for effective conservation
- 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.
- Journal Article2017Suryawanshi, K. R., Redpath, S. M., Bhatnagar, Y. V., Ramakrishnan, U., Chaturvedi, V., Smout, S. C., & Mishra, C. (2017). Impact 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.
- Dataset2017Data from: Impact of wild prey availability on livestock predation by snow leopardsData Dryad: doi:10.5061/dryad.8p689
- 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 Article2016Response of the red fox to expansion of human habitation in the Trans-Himalayan mountainsEuropean Journal of Wildlife Research, 62: 131-136, DOI 10.1007/s10344-015-0967-8Download
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Habitat modification through rural and urban expansions negatively impacts most wildlife species. However, anthropogenic food sources in habitations can benefit certain species. The red fox Vulpes vulpes can exploit anthropogenic food, but human subsidies sometimes also sustain populations of its potential competitor, the free-ranging dog Canis familiaris. As human habitations expand, populations of free-ranging dog are increasing in many areas, with unknown effects on wild commensal species such as the red fox. We examined occurrence and diet of red fox along a gradient of village size in a rural mountainous landscape of the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Diet analyses suggest substantial use of anthropogenic food (livestock and garbage) by red fox. Contribution of livestock and garbage to diet of red fox declined and increased, respectively, with increasing village size. Red fox occurrence did not show a clear relationship with village size. Red fox occurrence showed weak positive relationships with density of free-ranging dog and garbage availability, respectively, while density of free-ranging dog showed strong positive relationships with village size and garbage availability, respectively. We highlight the potential conservation concern arising from the strong positive association between density of free-ranging dog and village size.
- Dataset2016Data from: Response of the red fox to expansion of human habitation in the Trans-Himalayan mountainshttp://dx.doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5hs50
- Book Chapter2016Richness and size distribution of large herbivores in the HimalayaIn: Asian large herbivore ecology, Ahrestani, F., Sankaran, M. (eds.), Springer.Download
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Species diversity across several taxa ranging from plants to vertebrates is reported to decrease with altitude, or to show a mid-elevation peak in mountain systems. Plant biomass availability for herbivores is similarly expected to decline with altitude as temperature becomes limiting. However, the relationship between herbivore species richness and altitude has not been examined in detail. We show that while the overall regional pattern (gamma-richness) for 25 large-herbivore species (56 % grazers, 44 % browsers/mixed feeders) in the Western Himalayas shows a mid-elevation peak, the species richness of grazers increases nearly monotonically with altitude peaking at 4000–5000 m. Median body mass of herbivores decreased with altitude, suggesting greater suitability of higher elevations for smaller bodied herbivores. We propose that seasonal altitudinal migration patterns, biogeographic influences, increases in the abundance of graminoids, and an increase in plant nutrients with altitude might explain the unusual high grazer species richness at higher altitudes in the Himalayan Mountains.