Apex predator coexistence at high altitude

Herder Snow Leopard Coexistence Project

The snow leopard (Panthera unicia) is the apex predator of the Himalayan ecosystem found in the high mountainous regions of Central and South Asia. Nepal is one of twelve countries where snow leopards exist. Snow leopards are listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species with an estimated population ranging from 3,921 to 6,290. Nepal is home to an estimated 350-500 individuals.
Snow leopard
Snow leopard
1 Livestock hearing AM resize
The preferred prey of the snow leopard is the blue sheep and Himalayan tahr yet both are becoming scarcer. Consequently, snow leopard predation on domesticated livestock, including yaks, goats and sheep is increasing. Livestock grazing is a primary source of income, so predation adversely impacts herders’ livelihoods and the local economy. This is leading to intolerance towards snow leopards and has resulted in retaliatory killing.
In 2013, The Third Pole Conservancy established the Herder Snow Leopard Coexistence Project to promote coexistence in Nepal. The Conservancy works with local government, park offices and community-based organisations to run conservation workshops and a livestock insurance scheme for local communities. More than 60 herders were trained to implement visual predator deterrents called foxlights and to construct predator-proof corrals to keep livestock safe at night. Alternative livelihoods such as local handicrafts, production of medicinal plants, sea buckthorn juice and snow leopard tourism can reduce reliance on livestock rearing and overgrazing.
Outreach to school children
More than 250 high school students have participated in the schools outreach program. They are trained to install and monitor camera traps to learn about snow leopard presence and behavior. Snow Leopard Surroundings is a radio program that delivers conservation messages and has reached 1 million people . The project is increasing tolerance towards snow leopards by reducing financial loss due to depredation which has seen a reduction in retaliatory killings. The camera traps photographed Himalayan wolves in the project site previously thought to be extinct in the region.

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