, Volume 57, Issue 5, pp 1077-1083

Food habits of the snow leopard Panthera uncia (Schreber, 1775) in Baltistan, Northern Pakistan

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Abstract

The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) inhabits the high, remote mountains of Pakistan from where very little information is available on prey use of this species. Our study describes the food habits of the snow leopard in the Himalayas and Karakoram mountain ranges in Baltistan, Pakistan. Ninety-five putrid snow leopard scats were collected from four sites in Baltistan. Of these, 49 scats were genetically confirmed to have originated from snow leopards. The consumed prey was identified on the basis of morphological characteristics of hairs recovered from the scats. It was found that most of the biomass consumed (70%) was due to domestic livestock viz. sheep (23%), goat (16%), cattle (10%), yak (7%), and cattle–yak hybrids (14%). Only 30% of the biomass was due to wild species, namely Siberian ibex (21%), markhor (7%), and birds (2%). Heavy predation on domestic livestock appeared to be the likely cause of conflict with the local inhabitants. Conservation initiatives should focus on mitigating this conflict by minimizing livestock losses.

Communicated by C. Gortázar