A new study published last week in the journal PLOS One, Dr. Chetri and his team are studying conflicts between humans and snow leopards in areas of Nepal in order to find ways to mitigate them. That’s why they spent more than 150 days in the Central Himalayas sniffing out snow leopard scat. Embedded in the excrement were clues to decoding the cat’s diet and determining how often it ate livestock, which could one day guide conservation strategies to reduce contact between snow leopards and farm animals.
In addition to collecting snow leopard feces, the team also scooped up wolf droppings. Himalayan wolves are not nearly as threatened as their feline counterparts, but they are also an elusive mountain predator that meddles with livestock.
According to the World Wildlife Fund the snow leopards population was decimated by poaching and habitat destruction: only about 4,000 of the endangered cats remain in the wild. Conflicts with mountain farmers and pastoral herders also contribute to their dwindling numbers.
Dr. Chetri said that their findings would serve as the first step toward understanding how snow leopards affect the livestock of the rural peoples in the Himalayas. Their next steps are to determine the economic impact that the killings of farm animals have on the pasture herders, and then to develop strategies that will help reduce interactions between humans and the cats.