Coexistence of Snow Leopards and Wolves in the Nepal Himalayas

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Author(s): Anil Shrestha
Published in: Journal of Threatened TAXA (2019)

Cats, canines, and coexistence: dietary differentiation between the sympatric Snow Leopard and Grey Wolf in the Western landscape of Nepal Himalaya

The threatened Snow Leopard Panthera uncia and Wolf Canis lupus are the apex predators in the Himalayas. Understanding the dietary habits of sympatric apex carnivores such as this advances our knowledge of ecological processes and aids their conservation in the Himalayas. In this study, we compared the diets of the sympatric Snow Leopard and Grey Wolf using non-invasive genetic and standard micro-histological analyses of scats that were collected from the western complex of Nepal Himalaya.
Our study revealed one of the highest recorded contributions of livestock to the diet of top predators (55% for Grey Wolf and 39% for Snow Leopard). We also recorded these species have high similarity in their diet suggesting potential competition. Their diet composition, however, varied significantly based on their consumption of wild and domestic prey. Wolf ate a higher proportion of livestock prey compared to the Snow Leopard. In contrast, Snow Leopard ate a higher proportion of wild prey compared to the Wolf. Limitation in data precludes predicting direction and outcome of interspecific interactions between these predators. Because of a high proportion of livestock in their diet, we suggest a high rate of negative interaction with the villagers, whose major occupation is livestock farming and thus plausibly increased retaliatory killings of these already imperilled predators. To ensure the long-term survival of these two apex carnivores, conservation measures should enhance populations of their wild prey species while reducing livestock losses of the local community through preventive and mitigative interventions.

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