Course:CONS200/2020/The fate of the snow leopard in the Mongolian Steppe: The Importance of Grassland Conservation
The snow leopard is a solitary animal that has faced numerous pressures on its existence, warranting its status as an endangered species (Jackson & Wangchuck, 2001). It inhabits the Mongolian Steppe, the largest fully intact temperate grassland (UNESCO, 2014). The snow leopard has been threatened by climate change leading to habitat degradation (Spence et al,. 2014), agriculture, expansion of infrastructure, and hunting (McCarthy et al. 2017), along with numerous other threats to their survival. Due to these disturbances, their range has been reduced by 69% in size (Mahmood et al,. 2019). The snow leopard is facing an increasing risk of extinction, and conservation efforts must be put in place to protect them. Although sustainable grazing methods are utilized in the Mongolian Steppe (Schonbach et al., 2011), more must be done to conserve this predator’s habitat.
One effective solution proposed is the implementation of solutions centred around community involvement and stewardship (Jackson & Wangchuck, 2001). Another solution already in place that can be expanded is the expansion of sustainable grazing management practices (Schonbach et al., 2011). Additionally, conservation of the Snow Leopard can assist in the conservation of other sympatric species (Augugliaro et al., 2019) like Lynx, Wolf, and Red Fox (Alexander et al., 2016).
Nature of the issue or problem
Climate change and Antrhopogenic activities in the Mongolian Steppe
Mongolian steppe is degrading quickly, it experiences higher temperature (increase by more than 2 degrees since 1940), less rain (by 7% also since 1940), and increase in goat population to 20 million by 2008. There has also been an increase in fire events, leading to a greater decrease in vegetation cover, greater than goats.
Climate change and land-use change are the expected factors to have the most effect nomadic pastoralism. And due to socio-economic changes grazing patterns affect the demography of pastoral people. 
Effects of changing environment on Snow Leopard
Snow leopards range has reduced by 69%, their numbers estimate wildly. 
With shrinking and overlapping ranges of snow leopards and its prey, pastoralism is the dominant type of land that the snow leopard occupies. There is a positive relationship between wild prey density and wild ungulates. And there is a negative effect on snow leopards as decrease in livestock results in retaliatory killings by herders. Wild prey density is a indicator of habitat use by snow leopards. Snow leopard response to resource extraction of their range is poorly understood. Up to 70% of livestock contribute to the snow leopard diet. High livestock population leads to a suppression of wild prey population due to competition of resources. 
Overall the main causes identified with low snow leopard populations are residential and commercial expansion, agriculture, energy sector, transportation Infrastructure and development, man-made disturbances, hunting, climate change, and invasive species. 
Current remedial action(s)
Under rapidly changing environments, conflict between humans and wildlife becomes a driving factor to existing threats on species’ survival, often referred to as “Human Wildlife Conflict”, practical field based solutions are put into effect in alleviate such problems.
- insurance schemelocal community pays towards a community-managed fund that is designed to compensate for livestock losses to predators, in effect increases community tolerance towards snow leopards. The effects of financial supports have been spreading to new areas.
- community conservation workcommunity conservation work operates on the basis that local people are better equipped with generational skills and knowledge of the natural surrounding environments. Through a ‘citizen scientist’ scheme, local citizens engage to collect data on wild leopards living in the area, thus building engagement with snow leopard conservation and empathy towards human-wildlife coexistence.
- collaring using GPS technology, develops analysis of snow leopard activity to assist planning of large-scale conservation projects
- better protection of livestock development of livestock protection plans, such as livestock pens and alternative methods of guard dogs, having people watch over herds while livestocks are out grazing.
- improving the habitat in changing habitats, the decline in wild herbivore populations lead to snow leopards preying on livestock. In collaboration with local communities, methods to reduce grass overgrazing by livestock by supporting rotational grazing and creating better access to pastures outside of protected area ensures there is enough grass between livestock and wild animals.
Ongoing policies aim to build a positive attitude amongst local communities towards snow leopards, decline in retaliatory killing and alleviating damage of human-wildlife conflicts.
Options for future remedial action(s)
Current remedial actions operate on the basis of practical field based solutions, and has to yet consider for monetary incentives– different payments for ecosystems. In considering for a more sustainable long run, the focus should be adjusted from direct snow leopard species conservation, to ecosystem conservation. Habitat loss is a dominant driver of biodiversity loss, and tackling of such environmental changes will sustain such species biodiversity and alleviate human-wildlife conflict.
An evaluation of solutions from technical, social, cultural, economic, financial, political and/or legal points of view (not all of these categories will be relevant to all situations). If relevant, add any policy recommendations.
- Conservation of the Snow Leopard can help assist in the protection of other sympatric carnivores and vulnerable species (Augugliaro, 2019)
- Main causes identified with low Leopard populations (McCarthy et al. 2017):
- Residential and Commercial Expansion
- Energy Sector
- Transportation Infrastructure and Development
- Man-made disturbances
- Climate Change
- Invasive Species
- Best solution in the case of monetary constraints can be “community-based stewardship initiatives” (Jackson & Wangchuck, 2001)
- Their range has shrunk from 10.47 million square kilometres to 3.20 million square kilometres (69% reduction) (Mahmood et al., 2019)
- Mongolian Steppe is the largest temperate grassland, that is fully intact on Earth (UNESCO, 2014)
- Climate change affecting grazing regimes in the grassland pasture (Spence et al., 2014) which involves large herbivores, and is a determinant of habitat use by snow leopards (Sharma et al., 2015).
- Sustainable grazing management systems are in place in the Mongolian Steppe (Schonbach et al., 2011)
Please use the Wikipedia reference style. Provide a citation for every sentence, statement, thought, or bit of data not your own, giving the author, year, AND page. For dictionary references for English-language terms, I strongly recommend you use the Oxford English Dictionary. You can reference foreign-language sources but please also provide translations into English in the reference list.
- Liu, Yi Y.; Evans, Jason P.; McCabe, Matthew F.; A. M. de Jeu, Richard; M. van Dijk, Albert; Dolman, Albertus J.; Saizen, Izuru (2013). "Changing climate and overgrazing and decimating mongolian steppes". PLoS One. 8 (2). doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/10.1371/journal.pone.0057599 Check
- Spence, Laura A.; Liancourt, Pierre; Boldgiv, Bazartseren; Petraitis, Peter S.; Casper, Brenda B. (2014). "Climate change and grazing interact to alter flowering patterns in the Mongolian steppe". Oecologia. 152 (1): 251–260.
- Mahmood, Tariq; Younas, Ayesha; Akrim, Faraz; Andleeb, Shaista; Hamid, Abdul; Nadeem, Muhammad Sajid (2019). pone.0218460 "Range contraction of snow leopard (Pantera uncia)" Check
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- Sharma, Rishi Kumar; Bhatnagar, Yash Veer; Mishra, Charudutt (2015). "Does livestock benefit or harm snow leopards?". Biological Conservation. 190: 8–13.
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- Elliott, Wendy (2008). Common Ground: Solutions for reducing the human, economic and conservation costs of human wildlife conflict. WWF Global Species Programme.
- Adhikari, Deepak (August 30 2017). "Insurance helps save Nepal's endangered snow leopards". Nikkei Asian Review. Check date values in:
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- Kusi, Naresh (Winter 2019). "Perspectives of traditional Himalayan communities on fostering coexistence with Himalayan wolf and snow leopard". Conservation Science and Practice.
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