The snow leopard shakes off the sedative and gets up slowly to head back home. This is the first time that satellite GPS technology is being used in snow leopard collaring in Nepal.
A snow leopard in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area of the Sacred Himalayan Landscape in Nepal has been successfully fitted with a satellite-GPS collar for the very first time.
The snow leopard, an adult male approximately five years old, was captured, fitted with a GPS Plus Globalstar collar and released back into the wild.
The collaring expedition, which began on 7th November and lasted 45 days, was led by the Government of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation with the support of WWF, Conservation and Adaptation in Asia’s High Mountain Landscapes and Communities Project of UASID, National Trust for Nature Conservation, and Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Management Council/Snow Leopard Conservation Committee-Ghunsa. WWF Nepal provided both financial and technical support to the collaring expedition.
“The snow leopard collaring is indeed a new win for Nepal,” stated Megh Bahadur Pandey, director general of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.
“It reiterates the commitment of the government to strengthen measures to better understand and protect the snow leopard whose survival is under threat from anthropogenic actions and the pervasive impacts of global climate change.”
This is the first time that satellite-GPS technology is being used in snow leopard collaring in Nepal. Prior collaring work on the species used VHF technology in the early 80s and 90s.
The collaring expedition also marks the first time that local communities through citizen scientists and Snow Leopard Conservation Committees have been involved, playing a key role in identifying snow leopard hotspots for tracking purposes through ongoing camera trap monitoring operations, participating in the collaring operations, and managing local logistics.
“Snow leopards are highly elusive creatures and given the terrains they reside in, monitoring work on the species is a highly challenging task,” stated Dr Narendra Man Babu Pradhan, co-ordinator for development, research and monitoring at WWF Nepal.
“While past studies on the snow leopard have been limited to areas that are accessible to people, this technology will help provide important information on the ecology and behaviour of the wide ranging snow leopard.”
Through data received from the satellite collar, it will be possible to determine the snow leopard’s movement patterns, habitat use and preferences, home ranges to identify critical core habitats and corridors, including trans-boundary habitat linkages and climate resilient habitats.
“Nepal’s Himalayas are a rich mosaic of pristine habitat, freshwater and wildlife species including the iconic snow leopard,” stated Anil Manandhar, country representative of WWF Nepal. “The success of the collaring expedition opens up new frontiers in snow leopard conservation, as well as new avenues to profile Nepal as a living laboratory to help build on international collaboration in conservation science.”
The existing snow leopard conservation projects in Kangchenjunga Conservation Area include snow leopard monitoring using camera traps and prey-base monitoring with the partnership of local citizen scientists and Snow Leopard Conservation Committees, a population genetic study using fecal DNA, and a livestock insurance scheme built at reducing human-snow leopard conflict.
“The snow leopard conservation program has given the local communities the opportunity to build their own capacities in snow leopard monitoring,” stated Himali Chungda Sherpa, chairperson of the Snow Leopard Conservation Committee-Ghunsa. “This is further aiding the overall understanding amongst the local communities on the importance of protecting the species thereby building on our commitment towards snow leopard conservation.”