No free lunch

In Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 14, Jonny and Maurice discuss the hidden perils of conservation social science research. Seven years on and they’re still publishing journal articles from this work.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

A bright idea for surveying tourists turns into a lot of extra work. Maurice and Jonny recount the sad story.

Maurice: ‘Rinzin, can you please check with him if he is happy to sell his last bottle of methylated spirits to us…’

Rinzin: ‘Yes, he is more than happy!’

Maurice: ‘Fantastic! And could you check with him that he really doesn’t need it…’

After much dialogue, headshaking and difficult facial expressions, it became clear there was, in fact, a problem.

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Farming Matters May 2021 Interview

With dogs and goat at Jubilee Farm, overlooking Larne Lough

Catch up on my May 2021 Farming Matters interview on BBC Radio Ulster, as I discuss community farming, community supported agriculture and agroecology, among other topics.

From 17:00 on BBC Sounds.

Wild Mustang

From its stunning arid landscapes to its Yakdonalds, the world’s deepest valley is full of surprises. Jonny gives a guided tour in Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 13.

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A short digest of the team’s work over the last month in the western part of Annapurna Conservation Area.

Before it was a muscle-car or a horse breed from the New World, Mustang was a region of mid-western Nepal. It is the true heir to the title. Long before cars were invented or even before horses were introduced to North America by the Spanish, Mustang was the name given to this arid valley that runs south from the Tibetan border. Situated between the towering 8,000metre-plus peaks of Annapurna I and Dhaulagiri, its Kali Gandakhi gorge is the deepest in the world. The vast mountains to the east block the passage of the annual monsoon into the valley so that little rain waters its barren landscape. In fact, moonscape might be a more appropriate description. But in its starkness it is stunning.

Jeeps crossing ancient river beds of Mustang's Kali Gandahki gorge Jeep crossing ancient river beds of Mustang’s Kali Gandahki…

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Stairway to heaven

3 planes, 2 buses, 3 jeeps + 12 hours of walking on the stairway to heaven just to get to snow leopard country, and my closest encounter so far with the mountain ghost. Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 12 explains.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Jonny looks back on his exploratory trip to Nepal in the Autumn of 2013 and sets the scene for his return next week.

In October/November of last year I made my first fieldtrip to Nepal. This one was about setting the scene for the main research trips of 2014, which this blog has been describing. I came to do a practice run with the questionnaire I’d devised, to conduct interviews with locals on a range of background issues relevant to my study, and to check out the areas where the team and I would be collecting data later on: Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park (SNP) and Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA). As my government research permit hadn’t come through by then (or till a lot later – see Hakuna Matata), I wasn’t able to visit SNP. But I had got my research permit from the organisation that operates ACA – the

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Something old, something new

In Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 11, I reflect on the ins and outs of doing a PhD. Health warning: can cause Permanent Head Damage.

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Doing a PhD is a bit like getting married: it’s a big commitment. Jonny explains, with a little help from an old wedding rhyme.

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21st century conservation

Diverse, interdisciplinary, inclusive, digital: this is 21st century conservation in action, understanding nature and human nature to save the world, its people and its places. This is Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 10…

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Jonny suggests that studying the study’s research team can tell us a lot about conservation today.

Conservation has come a long way since 1903. Back then, a group of British statesmen and naturalists formed the world’s first international conservation organisation, calling it ‘The Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire’. These be-whiskered Anglo-Saxon gentlemen, with their guns and safari suits, lived in a very different world to the one we inhabit today, albeit in the twilight of an era that was to be extinguished by the cataclysm of World War I. The safari suits, if not the guns, may have mostly gone since then but conservation has not. Over a century later, the microcosm that is our research team provides a window on a changed world.

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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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Your Place And Mine Easter interview

Two of those new Anglo-Nubians

Catch up on my Your Place and Mine Easter interview on BBC Radio Ulster, as I bring a seasonal update from Jubilee Farm: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p09clk46

There’s also a short video here.