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Assessing prey selection of snow leopard in Mt. Kangchenjunga, Nepal
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  • Kamal Thapa,
  • Natalie Schmitt,
  • Narendra Pradhan,
  • Hem Acharya,
  • Santosh Rayamajhi
Kamal Thapa
Tribhuvan University
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Natalie Schmitt
McMaster University Department of Biomedical Sciences
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Narendra Pradhan
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Hem Acharya
Government of Nepal Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation
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Santosh Rayamajhi
Tribhuvan University
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Abstract

In spring of 2012, we studied the feeding habits of snow leopard using a comprehensive approach that combines fecal genetic sampling, macro and microscopic analysis of snow leopard diets and direct observation of Naur and livestock in Kangchenjunga Conservation Area of east Nepal. Out of collected 88 putative snow leopard scat samples from 140 transects (290 km) in 27 (4*4 km2) sampling grid cells, 83% were confirmed to be from snow leopard. The genetic analysis accounted for 19 individual snow leopards (10 male and 9 female) with a mean population size estimate of 24 (95% CI: 19- 29), and an average density of 3.9 snow leopards/100 km2 within 609 km2. Total available prey biomass of Naur and Yak was estimated at 355,236 kg (505 kg yak/km2 and 78 kg Naur/km2). From the available prey biomass, we estimated snow leopards consumed 7% annually which was comprised of wild prey (49%), domestic livestock (45%), and 6% unidentified items. The estimated 47,736 kg Naur biomass gives a snow leopard-Naur ratio of 1: 59 on a weight basis. The proportion of young Naur was estimated at 17%, with an almost double predation rate at 28%. Predators such as common leopard and wolf share the same habitat and might compete with snow leopard for prey which will likely influence future predator-prey associations in KCA. Along with livestock insurance scheme improvement, there needs to be a focus on improved livestock guarding as well as engaging and educating local people to be citizen scientists on the importance of snow leopard conservation, involving them in long-term monitoring programs and promotion of ecotourism.

Peer review status:IN REVISION

13 Jan 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
19 Jan 2021Assigned to Editor
19 Jan 2021Submission Checks Completed
29 Jan 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
14 Mar 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
15 Mar 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor