Funded Research Projects: WILDLIFE SCIENCE

A Study of Snow Leopard Ecology in Kyrgyzstan

Research Sponsored By: Panthera
Principal Investigator: Aaron Wirsing
Project Description
Panthera’s Kyrgyzstan snow leopard program has two goals. First, to improve knowledge and understanding of snow leopards and the ecological role they play in the high mountain ecosystems of Central Asia. Second, to put the lessons gained through research efforts to more effectively conserve and protect snow leopards and the ecosystems they inhabit. Working with Panthera, Shannon Kachel (SEFS PhD student) is implementing the primary research effort in Kyrgyzstan in order to determine: 1) the numerical and behavioral response of ungulates to variable predation risks and fear landscapes imposed by wolves, snow leopards, and humans; 2) the numerical and behavioral response of snow leopards and wolves to variable prey densities and landscape use; and 3) carnivore density and resource use responses to sympatric predators and humans. He will use GPS collars and noninvasive camera trapping and genetic spatial capture-recapture methods to evaluate resource selection, predation risk, and density in relation to a broad suite of ecological and anthropogenic variables. Fieldwork will be conducted in and around the SaryChat-Ertash Strictly Protected Area in Central Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The data from these efforts will form the basis of Shannon’s doctoral dissertation. Shannon’s proposed research will provide theoretical insight into predator-prey interactions and enhance basic ecological knowledge of snow leopards in particular, a vulnerable species that remains relatively unknown to science when compared to other large cats. This work will also foster an enhanced scientific and conservation capacity among local biologists and communities in Central Asia.