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Large carnivores and low diversity of optimal prey: a comparison of the diets of snow leopards Panthera uncia and wolves Canis lupus in Sarychat-Ertash Reserve in Kyrgyzstan

  • Kubanychbek Jumabay-Uulu (a1), Per Wegge (a2), Charudutt Mishra (a3) and Koustubh Sharma (a3)

Abstract

In the cold and arid mountains of Central Asia, where the diversity and abundance of wild ungulates are generally low, resource partitioning among coexisting carnivores is probably less distinct than in prey-rich areas. Thus, similar-sized carnivores are likely to compete for food. We compared the summer diets of snow leopards Panthera uncia and wolves Canis lupus in Sarychat-Ertash Reserve in the Tien-Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, based on analysis of genetically confirmed scats. Abundances of the principal prey species, argali Ovis ammon and Siberian ibex Capra sibirica, were estimated from field surveys. The diets consisted of few species, with high interspecific overlap (Pianka's index = 0.91). Argali was the predominant prey, with > 50% frequency of occurrence in both snow leopard and wolf scats. This was followed by Siberian ibex and marmots Marmota baibacina. Being largely unavailable, remains of livestock were not detected in any of the scats. In the snow leopard diet, proportions of argali and ibex were in line with the relative availabilities of these animals in the Reserve. This was in contrast to the diet of wolf, where argali occurred according to availability and ibex was significantly underrepresented. The high diet overlap indicates that the two predators might compete for food when the diversity of profitable, large prey is low. Competition may be more intense in winter, when marmots are not available. Hunting of argali and ibex outside the Reserve may be unsustainable and therefore reduce their abundances over time. This will affect both predators negatively and intensify competition for food. Reduction in ibex populations will directly affect the snow leopard, and the wolf is likely to be indirectly affected as a result of increased snow leopard predation of argali.

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      Large carnivores and low diversity of optimal prey: a comparison of the diets of snow leopards Panthera uncia and wolves Canis lupus in Sarychat-Ertash Reserve in Kyrgyzstan
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Corresponding author

(Corresponding author) E-mail per.wegge@umb.no

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Oryx
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