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Research at St Andrews

Tamsin Pamela McMillan Rigold


Research overview

Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are an iconic, elusive cat found across the high-altitude mountains of Central Asia. The global population is considered to be at high risk of decline, with little of its range directly surveyed. Snow leopards face threats from prey reduction; illegal wildlife trade; habitat degradation; and retaliatory killings over livestock depredation. Within Kyrgyzstan multiple activities have land-use requirements across potential snow leopard habitat - more than 25% of the country.

This research is a collaboration between the University of St Andrews, Snow Leopard Trust, and Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan. It will support the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) goal of ‘20 by 2020’, and the recently-launched Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards (PAWS) initiative; focussing on the question:
“How best to share land-usage to maintain the viability and connectedness of Kyrgyzstan’s snow leopard population, and provide for snow leopard communities’ wellbeing, now and in the future?”

Research locations will be non-protected, un-surveyed sites within the Greater Sarychat GSLEP landscape. Much of the landscape consists of multiple-use hunting concessions; for long-term snow leopard survival such sites must be able to provide additional, supporting habitat beyond protected area borders.

Camera trapping and other methods will produce baseline surveys of snow leopard populations, and spatio-temporal data on land-use patterns; increasing the global population dataset. Participatory methods will investigate current local community land-use patterns, and potential future changes. From this, statistical and geo-spatial data analyses will identify the key biotic and abiotic drivers behind snow leopard and community land-use patterns, their interactions, and how to maximise opportunities for co-existence. Long-term sustainable shared-land management actions will be identified that can contribute to policy documents; aiming to scale-up increases in human and wildlife co-existence from individual sites across the wider landscape.

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