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Human–carnivore conflict: ecological and economical sustainability of predation on livestock by snow leopard and other carnivores in the Himalaya

Abstract

Human communities in the Trans-Himalayan region depend on the dynamics of the agro-pastoral system for survival. Humans, livestock and wild predators share common resources in the region, and this leads to human–wildlife interactions that have the potential to threaten the continued viability of this fragile ecosystem and impact the local economy. This study explored the interaction between livestock and predators in the upper Mustang region of Nepal in terms of economic and ecological impacts. A total of 1,347 km2 of pasture land were grazed by 30,217 livestock belonging to local people from six village development committees. It was found that the seasonal movement patterns of livestock, from higher to lower elevations (closer to villages), coincided with elevation movements of wild ungulate prey and snow leopards into this smaller land area. The number of livestock reported to have been killed by predators during the study period was 706, 75 % of which was attributed to snow leopards. An estimated US$ 44,213 was lost between October 2009 and June 2011 due to livestock predation. These losses of livestock to snow leopards and other carnivores provoked retaliatory killings by villagers, and this in turn may significantly affect the viability of predator populations in this region. We suggest four approaches to mitigate human–carnivore conflict in the region: (a) introduce a livestock insurance policy, (b) promote the use of predator-proof livestock corrals and sheds, (c) involve local people in alternative income generating activities, and (d) increase conservation education in these regions.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation, Government of Nepal; and National Trust for Nature Conservation/Annapurna Conservation Area Project for providing permission and the necessary support for the project. We thank R. P. Lamsal, L. B. Gurung, N. Lama, N. Dhungana and B. Kreigenhofer and all the upper Mustang Unit Conservation Office’s staff for their support. We thank Massey University Research Fund, Massey University, New Zealand; Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund, Japan; Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong for providing financial support for the project. We thank G. Gurung, D. Gurung, D. C. Gurung, F. Gurung, S. Gurung, S. Paudel and B. Adhikari for their support in field survey.

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Correspondence to Achyut Aryal.

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Handled by Kai M. A. Chan, The University of British Columbia, Canada.

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Aryal, A., Brunton, D., Ji, W. et al. Human–carnivore conflict: ecological and economical sustainability of predation on livestock by snow leopard and other carnivores in the Himalaya. Sustain Sci 9, 321–329 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-014-0246-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-014-0246-8

Keywords

  • Human–wildlife conflict
  • Conservation
  • Depredation
  • Movement patterns
  • Himalaya
  • Snow leopard