Journal Article


Abhishek GhoshalYash Veer BhatnagarBivash PandavKoustubh SharmaCharudutt MishraR RaghunathKulbhushansingh Suryawanshi
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Assessing changes in distribution of the Endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia and its wild prey over 2 decades in the Indian Himalaya through interviewbased occupancy surveys

Understanding species distributions, patterns ofchange and threats can form the basis for assessing the conservationstatus of elusive species that are difficult to survey.The snow leopard Panthera uncia is the top predator of theCentral and South Asian mountains. Knowledge of the distributionand status of this elusive felid and its wild prey islimited. Using recall-based key-informant interviews we estimatedsite use by snow leopards and their primary wildprey, blue sheep Pseudois nayaur and Asiatic ibex Caprasibirica, across two time periods (past: –; recent:–) in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. Wealso conducted a threat assessment for the recent period.Probability of site use was similar across the two time periodsfor snow leopards, blue sheep and ibex, whereas for wildprey (blue sheep and ibex combined) overall there was an% contraction. Although our surveys were conducted inareas within the presumed distribution range of the snowleopard, we found snow leopards were using only % ofthe area (, km). Blue sheep and ibex had distinct distributionranges. Snow leopards and their wild prey were notrestricted to protected areas, which encompassed only %of their distribution within the study area. Migratory livestockgrazing was pervasive across ibex distribution rangeand was the most widespread and serious conservationthreat. Depredation by free-ranging dogs, and illegal huntingand wildlife trade were the other severe threats. Ourresults underscore the importance of community-based, landscape-scale conservation approaches and caution against relianceon geophysical and opinion-based distribution maps thathave been used to estimate national and global snow leopardranges.