Water of life

Not just a pretty face, snow leopards roam landscapes that provide water for 1/3 of the human race. In Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 9, Jonny explains 4 ways in which water and wildlife connect on the Roof of the World.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Water is key to understanding snow leopard habitat and snow leopard conservation. Jonny explains.

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

Coleridge

Life in the Himalayas is defined by water. It’s everywhere, but like in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, there’s less of it to drink than you might think. That’s because the majority of the water is ice and snow. Indeed, there’s so much ice and snow here that the region has been dubbed ‘The Third Pole’. Across the snow leopard’s mountain kingdom – in the Himalayas and other Central Asian ranges – there are four main ways that water relates to the species.

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Oh deer, what can the matter be?

In Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 8, I look at the snow leopard’s 3 main large prey species in Nepal. Think fast food, very fast food and extremely fast food.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Jonny writes about the snow leopard’s preferred prey in Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park.

Snow leopards are big cats. Weighing between 35kg/77lbs and 55kg/121lbs, and with an active lifestyle in a cold environment, they need to eat a lot of food to keep them going and keep them warm. Like all large felines, they tend to catch a big prey animal – like a wild sheep or goat – every couple of days if it’s available, and will often stay near the kill until it’s finished. A snow leopard killing three sheep-sized animals every two weeks could therefore get through around 75 in a year. That’s a lot of lamb chops.

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Homeward bound

In Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 7, I finish setting up the first phase of data collection in the Everest region. Then it’s a gruelling, up-hill-and-down-dale trek out, with all those questionnaires strapped to my back.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Another long walk for Jonny and a new chapter for the rest of the team.

My two weeks in the field setting up the research project were over. Due to family commitments, it was time to head home. So far, we’d conducted 15 interviews and almost 150 household surveys. We were well on our way to achieving our goal of 26 interviews and 260 questionnaires in the Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park – 25% of all the households in the area.

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Yak yeti yak

In Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 6, Jonny et al come face-to-face with the realities – and mythologies – of living alongside large carnivores. Lock up your yaks.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Close encounters of the feline kind. Some readers may find some of the photos in this blog distressing.

On Wednesday 19th we left Thame for Namche Bazaar. After a stopover there to refuel on chocolate cake and apple pie in the heavenly Namche Bakery, we set out the next day for our new destinations. Khunde and Khumjung are 330m/1,000ft m above Namche Bazzar at around 3,730m/12,300ft. We’d heard that there’d been some recent livestock losses there so we were keen to check them out.

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Life in the freezer

In Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 5, Jonny and the team experience -20 celsius blizzard conditions, as they face up to the harsh reality of winter life on the Roof of the World…

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Our second blog from the Nangpa valley describes what a bunch of snow leopard researchers get up to in their spare time. Silly nonsense, mostly.

All work and no play make Jonny & Co. a dull bunch. Having time-off is therefore an important part of our schedule, and we take every Sunday as a rest-day. Most evenings, though, the four of us can be found reading books and playing Uno, all the while sitting as close to the communal stove as we can get without going up in flames.

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The Snow Leopard Bank Ltd.

In Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 4 – The Snow Leopard Bank Ltd. – find out what microfinance has to do with macro-predators. And why both people & snow leopards are banking on the answer…

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

What does a microfinance scheme have to do with snow leopard conservation? Quite a lot actually, as the first of two blogs from the Nangpa valley explains.

On Friday 14th we left Namche Bazaar for the Nangpa valley, the western part of Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park. This area is well away from the busy tourist trail to Everest Base Camp, and is quieter, less well-off and more dependent on agriculture and livestock. This valley was also were Tsering, one of our research assistants was from. As a local, he had spent a week with us making valuable introductions to contacts in the area, but now left due to prior commitments back in Kathmandu.

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The Bizarre Bazaar

In Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 3 the team and I start collecting data in Namche Bazaar. Gateway to the Everest region and ‘capital’ of the Sherpa people, it is also – at 3440m – home to the world’s highest Irish pub…

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

The team get stuck into data collection in our first village. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Namche Bazaar has now been the team’s home for most of a week. It’s a funny wee place: around 200 households sculpted into a horseshoe-shaped valley with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. It’s also a tourist hotspot and the numerous hotels stacked on top of each other, with their blue and green roofs and window-sashes, give it a gaudy Alpine-ski-resort feel.

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Flying solo

In my snow leopard fieldwork diaries 2, I dice with death on a tiny plane flying to the world’s most dangerous airport, and fight with fatigue on my most exhausting day’s hiking yet…

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On a wing and a prayer to the land of the snow leopard. Buckle your seatbelts.

Finally, it was time to head into the field. Several days of playing musical-chairs-cum-twiddle-my-thumbs-cum-sit-on-my-behind round various Government offices had paid off. On Monday afternoon I got my research permit. Happy days.

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Hakuna Matata

Seven years on, I take a fresh look at my fieldwork diaries from Nepal.

In week 1, I arrive in Nepal and meet up with the rest of my research team as we try to track down that most elusive of creatures: the research permit.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Our research trip gets off to a shaky start.  No worries.

We’ve arrived.  After various flights myself and my friend, and fellow conservationist, Maurice Schutgens, arrived in Kathmandu on Tuesday 4th February.  Maurice will be helping me to manage our research assistants, and the information they collect, over the next three and a half months.  He’ll also be in charge when I’m absent from the field due to family commitments.

plane

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