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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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…

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

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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