Mountains of the mind

It’s not the imposing spires of the Himalayas that are the world’s most challenging peaks; it’s the mountains of the mind. These mental massifs also dictate the success or failure of snow leopard conservation, and of nature conservation in general. Some parting thoughts from the series in Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 19.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Two months on from finishing fieldwork, the snow leopard conservation journey continues.

The Himalayas may be thousands of miles from where I sit writing this, but their epic proportions feel much closer to home. That’s because the mountains that I’ve been working amongst over the last two months are not physical entities but mountains of data. With over 700 household questionnaires and 70 interviews collected there’s a lot of information to be sifted through and checked. I’ve just spent three weeks, for example, going through around 15,000 responses to open questions – were the respondent can say whatever they want rather than picking predetermined answers – and putting them in relevant categories. Only now am I ready to start analysing this data with statistics.

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The voices of those who matter II

Conservation = nature + human nature. But it’s the human nature bit that’s the tricky part, especially where large carnivores are concerned. Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries explores the nuances of these relationships in Nepal’s Annapurna Conservation Area.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

How people in Annapurna Conservation Area think about and feel towards the snow leopard.

In the ‘voices of those who matter‘ we looked at how people in Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) felt about the snow leopard.  In this blog we do the same with the 500-plus people we’ve talked to in our other study site: Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA)  After all, these are the people who live alongside the snow leopard day-in, day-out.  Their views of of the species are often shaped by practical experiences of losing livestock or via their religion, rather than through the comfortable lens of zoological collections or wildlife documentaries.  But like people everywhere, their opinions are diverse, multifaceted and important.

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Seven days in Little Tibet

One of the world’s most remote and extraordinary places, Nepal’s NarPhu valley has everything: stunning scenery, challenging trekking, Tibetan Buddhist culture, Cold War history. And did we mention the snow leopards? A week of wonder in Snow Leopard Fieldwork Diaries 17.

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

A blow-by-blow account of a week spent in the restricted NarPhu valley searching for snow leopards and their calling cards.

Day 1

Start: Koto 2600m

Finish: Mehta 3560m

Net altitude gain: 960m

Journey time: 8 hours 45 minutes

Armed to the teeth with permits, we were let into the valley by the police without any problems. Immediately a different world: no tourists, no road, hardly any litter. The river gorge we followed was incredible – 1,000m/3,300ft rock walls towering over us on both sides, the sky a sliver of light far above. Sore neck from continually gaping upwards. Below the narrow path a sharp fall to certain death in the ferocious Naar khola (river). Exhausting walk. Out like a light.

Blue sheep, common throughout the valley

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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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