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Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5493-8692

AccessType

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Year Degree Awarded

2020

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Todd K. Fuller

Second Advisor

Peter I. Zahler

Third Advisor

Peter W. Houlihan

Fourth Advisor

Heidi Kretser

Subject Categories

Other Life Sciences

Abstract

Livestock predation by snow leopards (Panthera uncia) and wolves (Canis lupus) in mountainous Asia is a major conservation challenge because, as a response to losses, herders may retaliate by killing predators and decreasing their populations. In the western half of Wakhan National Park (WNP) in northeastern Afghanistan, Wakhi families in 42 villages keep a variety of livestock species that are killed by snow leopards and wolves, and understanding the key factors behind this predation is vital for conflict mitigation and overall carnivore conservation in the area. To better understand livestock predation in the Wakhan Valley, I: 1) reviewed published literature from 1970-2020 on snow leopard and wolf predation on livestock across snow leopard range, aiming to identify predation factors and conflict mitigation strategies that could be applied in WNP; 2) conducted three population surveys of urial (Ovis vignei) and Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica) on the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush range in WNP, and estimated the potential carrying capacity of the area for snow leopards; and 3) interviewed herders across the 42 villages in Wakhan Valley in 2018 to estimate the annual livestock mortality and investigate predation variation as related to geographical, socio-economical, and ecological factors, and to livestock management practices among households that did and did not experience livestock losses to predators during the previous 12 months.

My literature review identified 43 peer-reviewed original articles that focused on snow leopard predation on livestock, and identified livestock management, socio-economic, ecological, and policy-related factors as the main conflict domains. Predator-proofing corrals; training shepherds and improving livestock guarding; insurance schemes; and compensation for predation were the most commonly reported mitigation schemes. I found that the urial density declined from ~72/100 km2 in 2015 to ~35/100 km2 in 2018 and seemed to continue a trend in decline since 2011. Ibex densities were similar in 2015 and 2018 (~250/100 km2), but may have declined 50% since 2011. Based on wild ungulate biomass, the northern slopes of Hindu Kush along the Wakhan Valley had a potential carrying capacity of 3.6 snow leopards/100 km2in 2018. I interviewed 274 households during the predation survey throughout the valley. My survey revealed that the average number of livestock was higher for households experiencing livestock losses to predation compared to those that did not. Predation accounted for only ~19% of livestock deaths (and ~3% of all livestock) in the previous year, much less than mortality due to disease (~74%) but more than to starvation (~7%). Wolves were responsible for ~89% of predation deaths, while snow leopards were responsible for

The most effective changes in livestock management to reduce losses to predators in the Wakhan Valley include improved shepherding, predator-proofing of the traditional corrals, avoidance of predator abundant areas, minimizing the period of free ranging for yaks and male cattle, carefully tending livestock in the areas where there are riparian forest and shrubland that provide cover for wolves, and keeping weak and injured animals at home until they get well be able to follow the flock in the pastures. The herders also need to keep the number of livestock to their capacity to protect. Selling a few of their livestock and investing in nighttime protection, e.g., predator-proofing their corrals, will save the rest of their livestock for many years. Installing wire meshes around the roofless enclosures in their summer camps will keep their livestock safe from nighttime raids and surplus killings. All of these management measures will be a cost to the shepherds, but their resources will be better spent on management and protection than losing it to predators anyway.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Wednesday, September 01, 2021

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