Human-snow leopard conflicts in the Sanjiangyuan Region of the Tibetan Plateau
Juan Lia, b, Hang Yinc, Dajun Wanga, Zhala Jiagongc, Zhi Lu
Conflicts between humans and snow leopards are documented across much of their overlapping distribution in Central Asia. These conflicts manifest themselves primarily in the form of livestock depredation and the killing of snow leopards by local herders. This source of mortality to snow leopards is a key conservation concern. To investigate human-snow leopard conflicts in the Sanjiangyuan Region of the Tibetan Plateau, we conducted household interviews about local herders’ traditional use of snow leopard parts, livestock depredation, and overall attitudes towards snow leopards. We found most respondents (58%) knew that snow leopard parts had been used for traditional customs in the past, but they claimed not in the past two or three decades. It may be partly due to the issuing of the Protection of Wildlife Law in 1998 by the People’s Republic of China. Total livestock losses were damaging (US$ 6193 per household in the past 1 year), however snow leopards were blamed by herders for only a small proportion of those losses (10%), as compared to wolves (45%) and disease (42%). Correspondingly, the cultural images of snow leopards were neutral (78%) and positive (9%) on the whole. It seems that human-snow leopard conflict is not intense in this area. However, snow leopards could be implicated by the retaliatory killing of wolves. We recommend a multi-pronged conservation program that includes compensation, insurance programs, and training local veterinarians to reduce livestock losses.