Nepal’s clouded leopard analysis wants extra attention_ Q&A with Yadav Ghimirey

Yadav Ghimirey, one of many pioneering clouded leopard researchers in Nepal, shares his challenges and achievements of conducting digital camera entice surveys, scat evaluation and pelt identification of the elusive clouded leopards in several areas of Nepal, the place they’re very uncommon and poorly understood.

He argues that clouded leopards are essential for Nepal’s biodiversity and ecosystem steadiness and that they deserve extra consideration and funding from native and world conservation companies.

He outlines his have to assess the distribution, eating regimen, conduct and habitat connectivity of clouded leopards in Nepal and to work on their conservation.

The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is among the most elusive cat species present in Nepal, with a conservation standing categorized as weak. The cat, referred to as dhwase chituwa in Nepali (which interprets to smoky leopard) for its distinctive pelt has been recorded in several areas of Asia starting from the Himalaya foothills in Nepal by way of mainland Southeast Asia into China.

Nepal (the Chitwan-Annapurna Panorama particularly) is taken into account the westernmost fringe habitat of the animal, which was recorded by digital camera entice for the primary time in 2010, in Shivapuri Nagarjun Nationwide Park within the Kathmandu Valley. It was subsequently reported farther east in Langtang, Makalu–Barun, Kanchenjunga and Chitwan-Annapurna.

Not solely is the cat uncommon, researchers specializing in the felid species are additionally onerous to seek out within the nation. Yadav Ghimirey, who’s pursuing his Ph.D. on the College of Florida, is among the pioneering researchers finding out clouded leopards within the nation. Mongabay’s Abhaya Raj Joshi talked to Ghimirey over a video name just lately in regards to the state of clouded leopard analysis in Nepal, its challenges and future prospects. The next interview has been translated from Nepali and edited for readability.

Mongabay: How did you develop curiosity in clouded leopards?

Yadav Ghimirey: I don’t precisely bear in mind. Many animals are named as “widespread”; for instance, widespread leopard and customary pigeon. However the clouded leopard has a “cloud” in its identify that makes it distinctive and struck a chord with me for some motive. I additionally discovered later that it’s understudied not solely in Nepal, but additionally in the entire world and that we don’t have an estimate of its world inhabitants.

Mongabay: Whenever you determined that you just needed to do analysis on clouded leopards, how did you go about managing the funds?

Yadav Ghimirey: It was again in round 2007-08 that I actively began searching for funding for my analysis. There’s a basket fund referred to as CEPF (the Important Ecosystem Partnership Fund) that was seeking to work within the japanese Himalayas by way of WWF. After I approached them with my proposal to check clouded leopards, they recommended that as a substitute of simply specializing in clouded leopards, that are uncommon, we give attention to small carnivores within the Makalu Barun Nationwide Park space. We accepted their suggestion, as we have been additionally undecided whether or not we’d discover any clouded leopards in our digital camera traps. We carried out our digital camera trapping work in 2009.

Mongabay: What have been a few of the challenges you encountered throughout your fieldwork?

One of many most important challenges was that digital camera traps these days had a lag of round 1-1.5 seconds after an animal triggered its shutter. This meant that we needed to arrange the digital camera traps in such a approach that the animal comes into the body of the digital camera 1-1.5 seconds after it triggers the shutter. Establishing digital camera traps within the hills wasn’t straightforward.

Mongabay: Did you handle to {photograph} any clouded leopards?

Yadav Ghimirey: Sadly, not one of the 21 digital camera traps we used might detect clouded leopards. Nevertheless, we did handle to seek out two pelts that have been with the native individuals and recognized them as belonging to clouded leopards.

In hindsight, I can say that if I get the identical alternative once more, I can undoubtedly {photograph} a handful of clouded leopards. However in these days, we didn’t have the required abilities and information to do this.

Within the following years, we carried out digital camera entice surveys within the Annapurna area in addition to in Chitwan. However the one time we photographed clouded leopards was in 2017 after we obtained eight images of 4 people.

Mongabay: In your opinion, what has the analysis on clouded leopards in Nepal contributed to the worldwide physique of information on clouded leopards?

That’s a troublesome query to reply, as clouded leopards are so uncommon in Nepal. All we all know is that they stay within the forest and the Annapurna area may very well be their western-most habitat. However a pelt has been seized by police farther west, suggesting they is likely to be distributed farther west than beforehand believed.

Equally, it was present in japanese Nepal in a village surrounded by a fragmented forest. This was one thing sudden.

Mongabay: Have you ever carried out scat surveys to seek out out the place the cats stay?

That, too, is just not straightforward. We all know that clouded leopards are across the dimension of a mean canine. Because of this their scat is abit greater than the leopard cat or the jungle cat and smaller than the leopard or tiger.

However we’re at present engaged on a undertaking to gather suspected clouded leopard scats and to have a look at their DNA make-up in order that we all know which scats are more likely to be of clouded leopards.

Additionally, as a result of we don’t know for positive what its scat appears to be like like, we don’t know what it eats.

Mongabay: In Nepal’s hills, leopards are being persecuted in varied locations as they work together with individuals and their livestock. As a result of clouded leopards additionally appear to be leopards, do you suppose they’re additionally dealing with the identical degree of persecution?

Clouded leopards have large canine tooth that they present after they really feel threatened. This may increasingly scare the individuals who discover them. As I stated earlier, they’re so uncommon in Nepal that individuals don’t discover them simply. However I agree that they, too, is likely to be persecuted by individuals making an attempt to do away with leopards whilst we don’t have any information of clouded leopards attacking livestock.

Mongabay: Speaking about their habitat, some analysis exhibits that they’re predominantly arboreal, whereas others don’t absolutely agree. What’s your tackle this?

I feel the extent to which clouded leopards use timber is dependent upon the distribution of different giant carnivores within the space. For instance, in Borneo, because the clouded leopard is taken into account the top-most predator, it doesn’t have to be cautious of different cats akin to tigers and leopards. This implies it may well hunt each on the bottom and within the timber.

However within the case of Nepal, because it shares its behavior with different large cats akin to leopards and tigers, it may well’t transfer a lot freely on the bottom. So we consider it’s extra arboreal.

Mongabay: Nepal is taken into account the westernmost and fringe habitat of clouded leopards. As their numbers are believed to be considerably low in contrast with different locations in Asia, some researchers say that their state in Nepal doesn’t make a lot distinction to their general inhabitants in Asia, so why give attention to them?

Yadav Ghimirey: That may very well be a sound argument for somebody wanting on the species from a worldwide perspective. However when you take a look at it from Nepal’s perspective, all animals present in Nepal are equally essential.

In recent times, individuals in Nepal’s hills are having issues dwelling with monkeys. I consider that if we have now a wholesome inhabitants of clouded leopards, they might play their position in serving to verify the expansion of the monkey inhabitants, as they’re excellent arboreal hunters. I’m not saying that this is able to be a panacea for the issue, but it surely may very well be a part of a method to cope with the state of affairs.

Mongabay: Is it true that it’s troublesome to safe world aggressive funding for clouded leopard work in Nepal as a result of it’s thought-about a fringe habitat of the animal?

Yadav Ghimirey: I partially agree with the assertion. Many of the funding for clouded leopard analysis goes to Borneo and Thailand, the place clouded leopards are present in greater numbers.

Additionally, large NGOs and conservation companies haven’t actually prioritized clouded leopards, that are one of many conservation precedence species in Nepal.

Nevertheless, we have now labored with completely different native governments within the Annapurna area to hold out analysis associated to clouded leopards. They’ve expressed curiosity in allocating funding yearly for such work. This type of strategy is extra sustainable than securing just a few thousand {dollars} of funding for one-off work.

The opposite factor that we want is for giant NGOs and conservation companies to take up the trigger. That hasn’t occurred within the case of clouded leopards.

Mongabay: What ought to be the subsequent step for clouded leopard analysis in Nepal?

Yadav Ghimirey: Step one is to seek out out the place it lives and what it feeds on. We additionally want to have a look at the landscape-level corridors clouded leopards are utilizing and have the potential for use. The underside line is we want much more knowledge on clouded leopards in Nepal to know their conduct and habitat in order that we will work on their conservation.

Banner picture: The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is named dhwase chituwa in Nepali (which interprets to smoky leopard) for its distinctive pelt. Picture by Cloudtail the Snow Leopard through Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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