The snow leopards and climate change
- Snow leopards face a severe prospect of both a shrinking range and fragmented populations as climate change makes their Himalayan homeland less hospitable.
- Bikram Shrestha is a leading snow leopard researcher in Nepal, where he says it’s possible there may not be habitable space for the big cat as temperatures rise.
- He says a key action to conserving snow leopards is to ensure a plentiful supply of prey species, which means ensuring there’s enough suitable habitat for species like Himalayan tahrs and martens.
- Shrestha spoke with Mongabay’s Abhaya Raj Joshi about the need for more research into the world’s most elusive big cat, the prospect of conflict with humans, and why some locals want snow leopards killed.
KATHMANDU — When researchers last year confirmed the presence of the manul, the “world’s grumpiest cat,” on the world’s highest mountain, they immediately looked at past records of the elusive feline in Nepal. And they found that the first person to confirm the cat’s presence in the country was one Bikram Shrestha.
It seemed fitting, given that Shrestha — who recently completed his Ph.D. at the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Charles University — has extensive research experience in the Himalayas. But his cat of concern is of a heftier pedigree than the manul (Otocolobus manul): it’s the king of the mountains itself, the snow leopard (Panthera uncia). Shrestha studied zoology at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu and began his research career in 2004 by studying the Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) on Sagarmatha (also known as Mount Everest), a wild goat considered a key prey species for snow leopards.
He went on to work for various organizations such as the U.S.-based Snow Leopard Conservancy and WWF before pursuing his doctorate in 2014. His team was also the first to confirm the presence of three snow leopards in lower-elevation areas in western Nepal’s Mustang district.
During his doctorate studies, Shrestha carried out extensive fieldwork using scat analysis and camera traps in the Annapurna and Sagarmatha regions of Nepal. It was his team that found, nearly 17 years after the confirmation of the big cat in the Sagarmatha region, that the population of snow leopards there has been fragmented into two, with limited communication and breeding between members of the two groups….
Leave a Reply