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Investigating the potential impact of trophy hunting of wild ungulates on snow leopard Panthera uncia conservation in Tajikistan

  • Shannon M. Kachel (a1), Kyle P. McCarthy (a1), Thomas M. McCarthy (a2) and Nuzar Oshurmamadov (a2)

Declining availability of prey is potentially a major factor limiting snow leopard Panthera uncia populations in Tajikistan and neighbouring states. Conservation initiatives to develop community-based trophy hunting programmes for ibex Capra sibirica and argali Ovis ammon polii aim to provide financial incentives for communities to limit poaching of wild ungulates. Such programmes could help to reverse local declines in ibex and argali populations, and consequently snow leopard populations, while simultaneously improving the economic status of local people. However, in practice the desired effect may not materialize. To investigate the premise, we estimated the population density of the snow leopard, using a spatial capture–recapture model based on camera trapping in two study areas (each c. 1,000 km2) in the Tajik Pamirs: a well-managed trophy hunting concession and an otherwise similar area where grazing and poaching are unmanaged. We used distance-truncated counts to assess relative densities of wild and domestic ungulates between sites, and faecal analyses to compare the dietary habits of snow leopards. Our data were limited in scope but suggested that the density of snow leopards and the relative density of wild and domestic ungulates may have been greater in the hunting concession, where wild ungulates accounted for a greater proportion of prey items. Our results provide preliminary evidence that trophy hunting of ungulates may be a viable tool for achieving snow leopard conservation goals; however, we conclude that further investigation is necessary to adequately address the question.

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      Investigating the potential impact of trophy hunting of wild ungulates on snow leopard Panthera uncia conservation in Tajikistan
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Also at: School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Box 352100, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

Also at: Department of Biology, Khorog State University, Khorog, GBAO, Tajikistan

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