Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your study address?1) To determine the status and population size of snow leopards in the Rong valley of Ladakh. This number will give a greater understanding of the status and distribution of snow leopards in Ladakh. 2) To determine the importance of the Rong Valley in supporting snow leopards in Ladakh3) To understand the spatio-temporal pattern of livestock depredation by snow leopard, and movement pattern of snow leopard in relation to human habitations in the Rong Valley
Methods: What were the main research methods you used?1) Camera Trapping: We used 36 camera trap in 30 4km x 4km grid-cells. The camera traps were placed in randomly selected grid-cells spread across an altitudinal gradient ranging from 3529 – 4908 m asl, with an average altitude of 4182m. Within the selected grid-cells cameras were placed along snow leopard travel routes: ridgelines, scrapes, rock scent, scats etc. Cat Identification: We identified unique individuals of snow leopards with the help of patterns of spots and rosettes across its body. 2) Human-wildife conflict survey: For the human-wildlife conflict surveys, we conducted a random questionnaire survey in the targeted villages. We also used involved community members to develop seasonal calendars for the village, which was broadly same for the entire Rong Valley. We also used their knowledge to understand and verify the depredation hotspots near the villages.
Results: What are your most important results?1) Camera Trapping: - 1099 Snow Leopard photos captured - 18 individuals identified (14 adults; 4 juveniles) - Density Estimate of 0.0375 - No movement recorded across river Indus 2) Human-wildife conflict survey:- 207 livestock loss due to snow leopards and wolves - Primitive guarding practices - Depredation occurring throughout the year, with peak in Winter- Clear overlaps between human settlements, livestock depredation hotspots and snow leopard movements
Discussion: What are your important discussion points and what is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?1) The density of snow leopard is similar to the studies in Mongolia and Nepal. The capture of 4 cubs is also a strong indicator. Rong Valley could be one of the key habitats for snow leopards other than the Hemis National Park in Ladakh. 2) Heavy depredation losses but positive attitude of local Buddhist communities with no retaliatory killings reported3) Overlaps indicates co-existences & probable dependency on livestock by snow leopards, a key for survival of the species