Small Changes in Livestock Herding Could Reduce a Big Threat to Snow Leopards


Post submitted by Matthias Fiechter.

Reducing the losses suffered by farmers due to predation on livestock by snow leopards is a key to protecting the endangered cat. New research now shows that small changes in the way livestock are herded could make a big difference.

Snow leopard habitat is used extensively for livestock grazing and snow leopards sometimes prey on domestic livestock. Even when these events are not frequent, they cause significant economic hardship for herders and lead to retaliatory killings.

Now, new research suggests there may be ways to avoid most of those livestock losses.

In a recently published paper, a team of scientists led by Snow Leopard Trust researcher Örjan Johansson pinpoints how snow leopard predation on domestic livestock tends to occur, and suggests specific improvements to herding practices that could help prevent it.

Asking all the right questions

“We knew that snow leopards like to eat ungulates, meaning both wild and domestic sheep and goats,” says Snow Leopard Trust researcher Örjan Johansson. “But beyond that, there are many open questions: How much of a snow leopard’s diet is made up of domestic species? How do the cats choose prey, and how much do they need? Are there diet differences between individual cats, or between males and females?”

“These questions are crucial for conservation,” explains Charu Mishra, the Trust’s Science and Conservation Director. “If we understand how snow leopards choose their prey and what factors influence these choices, we can do a much better job of helping local communities coexist with the cats. For instance, if we can predict where and when predation is likely to occur, we can focus our efforts there, which gives us a much better chance to prevent it.”

To get the answers they were after, Johansson and Mishra worked with colleagues from Panthera, the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation and Grimsö —> Read More