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Unveiling the ghost of the mountains

snow leopard ecology and behaviour

Johansson, Örjan (2017). Unveiling the ghost of the mountains. Diss. (sammanfattning/summary) Uppsala : Sveriges lantbruksuniv., Acta Universitatis agriculturae Sueciae, 1652-6880 ; 2017:67
ISBN 978-91-7760-024-4
eISBN 978-91-7760-025-1
[Doctoral thesis]

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Abstract

The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) has remained an enigma – one of the most recognised yet least understood of the large carnivores. The lack of knowledge about the species’ basic ecology causes conservation and management plans to be largely built on conjecture. The main aim of this thesis is to provide solid information on some of the key aspects of snow leopard ecology. The studies are primarily based on individual GPS-location data from collared snow leopards in the Tost Mountains of southern Mongolia. To increase our understanding of how large solitary carnivores adjust their home range utilisation to seasonal changes in key resources, data from GPS-collared pumas (Puma concolor) in the Cascade Mountains, USA were included in one chapter. In the last chapter photographic data from zoos across Europe were used to evaluate a critical assumption of one the most commonly employed survey methods for snow leopards.

In this study, snow leopards were found to have killed more wild prey than livestock, despite livestock number being at least an order of magnitude higher. Choice of wild prey followed the spatial and seasonal distribution of the prey. Male snow leopards had larger home ranges than females. Both males and females displayed intrasexual territoriality. Only between three and 22% of the protected areas in the snow leopard distribution range were large enough to have a 90% probability of harbouring 15 adult females. Puma and snow leopard males did not monopolise females by encompassing their home ranges. Contrarily, males of both species decreased monthly home range size in the mating season or peak mating time period, showing that they employed a mate guarding strategy.

Snow leopards were crepuscular and facultative nocturnal, their activity peaks changed seasonally, occurring during dusk in the cold season and dawn during the warm season. Activity patterns of snow leopards appear to be driven by a combination of needs facilitating hunting (cover and visibility) and thermoregulation whereas no support was found for the common explanation that large carnivores mirror the activity of their prey. The critical assumption in abundance estimates based on capture – recapture calculations, that individuals are correctly identified, was severely violated in a test using known individuals. In our test the classifiers overestimated the number of individuals in the sample, which could have serious consequences for a threatened species.

Authors/Creators:Johansson, Örjan
Title:Unveiling the ghost of the mountains
Subtitle:snow leopard ecology and behaviour
Alternative abstract:
LanguageAbstract
UNSPECIFIED

I många av de länder där snöleoparden (Panthera uncia) lever kallas de för bergens vålnader av lokalbefolkningen. De karga och otillgängliga berg som utgör snöleopardens livsmiljö, tillsammans med artens skygghet och utmärkta kamouflage, innebär att få människor har fått se mer än en skymt av dem. Trots decennier av forskning visste vi fortfarande inte särskilt mycket om artens ekologi när den här studien startade 2008. För att naturvård, oavsett om den är riktad mot bevarande eller annan förvaltning, ska vara framgångsrik måste den baseras på solid kunskap om den aktuella arten.

Den här avhandlingen bygger främst på data från GPS-märkta snöleoparder i Tostbergen i södra Mongoliet. För att bättre förstå hur stora rovdjur utnyttjar sina revir, och hur säsongvariationer i fördelningen av de viktigaste resurserna påverkar, har jag även jämfört med data från GPS-märkta pumor (Puma concolor) i delstaten Washington, USA. Avhandlingen presenterar ny information om stora delar av snöleopardens ekologi.

Jag fann att snöleoparderna dödade fler vilda bytesdjur än tamboskap, trots att det fanns minst tio gånger fler tamdjur i området. Snöleopardhannar hade större hemområden än honor och båda könen hävdade revir. Endast mellan tre och 22% av de skyddade områden som finns inom snöleopardens utbredningsområde var tillräckligt stora att ha 90% sannolikhet att kunna hålla 15 vuxna honor. Varken puma eller snöleopardhannar monopoliserade honor genom att omsluta deras hemområden. Istället minskade hannarna sina rörelser under parningssäsongen, eller den tid då flest parningar skedde, vilket visar att deras strategi var att bevaka honorna snarare än att maximera sin area. Snöleoparderna var aktiva främst i gryning och skymning och delvis även nattetid. Aktivitetstoppen ändrades över året, under den varma årstiden inföll den i gryningen och under den kalla årstiden inföll den under skymningen. Aktivitetsmönstret verkar styras främst av behovet av skydd, sikt och termoreglering. Kamerafällor har under senare år blivit en populär metod för att inventera stora däggdjur såsom snöleopard. För att räkna ut hur många individer ett område hyser krävs att man kan identifiera individerna korrekt. Jag testade detta antagande och fann att kravet på korrekt identifiering av individer är svårt att uppfylla vilket leder till en överskattning av antalet individer. I små populationer av en hotad art kan det få allvarliga konsekvenser.

Series/Journal:Acta Universitatis agriculturae Sueciae (1652-6880)
Year of publishing :1 September 2017
Depositing date:22 August 2017
Volume:2017:67
Number of Pages:51
Papers/manuscripts:
NumberReferences
IJohansson, Ö*., McCarthy, T., Samelius, G., Andrén, H., Tumursukh, L. & Mishra, C. (2015). Snow leopard predation in a livestock dominated landscape in Mongolia. Biological Conservation, 184, pp. 251-258.
IIJohansson, Ö*., Rauset, G. R., Samelius, G., McCarthy, T., Andrén, H., Tumursukh, L. & Mishra, C. (2016). Land sharing is essential for Snow leopard conservation. Biological Conservation, 203, pp. 1-7.
IIIJohansson, Ö*., Low, M., Koehler, G., Rauset, G. R., Samelius, G., Andrén, H., Lkhagvasuren, P., McCarthy, T. & Mishra, C. Sex-specific seasonal home range utilisation of pumas and snow leopards. (manuscript)
IVJohansson, Ö*., Chapron, G., Samelius, G., Lkhagvajav, P., McCarthy, T. & Mishra, C. Do large carnivores mirror the activity pattern of their prey? (manuscript)
VJohansson, Ö*., Low, M., Wikberg, E. & Samelius, G. Evaluating the critical assumption of correct individual identification in camera-trap studies. (manuscript)
Place of Publication:Uppsala
Publisher:Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
ISBN for printed version:978-91-7760-024-4
ISBN for electronic version:978-91-7760-025-1
ISSN:1652-6880
Language:English
Publication Type:Doctoral thesis
Full Text Status:Public
Agris subject categories.:L Animal production > L20 Animal ecology
P Natural resources > P01 Nature conservation and land resources
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 1 Natural sciences > 106 Biological Sciences (Medical to be 3 and Agricultural to be 4) > Zoology
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 1 Natural sciences > 106 Biological Sciences (Medical to be 3 and Agricultural to be 4) > Ecology
Agrovoc terms:leopards, animal ecology, nature conservation, predation, wild animals, livestock, mongolia
Keywords:activity pattern, camera trap, conservation, home range, Mongolia, Panthera uncia, predation, social organisation
URN:NBN:urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-e-4308
Permanent URL:
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-e-4308
ID Code:14488
Faculty:S - Faculty of Forest Sciences
Department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Ecology
(S) > Dept. of Ecology
Deposited By: Örjan Johansson
Deposited On:25 Aug 2017 08:13
Metadata Last Modified:21 Sep 2017 13:44

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