The Snow Leopard of the Himalayas introduced into the Adirondacks; A study of the conservation efforts and spiritual beliefs.

 

“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.”

Introducing the Himalayas into the Adirondacks using two amazing animals. The success story behind the conservation efforts of snow leopards can potentially help the unbalanced ecosystem of the Adirondack park due to the absence of the grey wolf. Through traveling to Nepal and gaining first hand experience through stories from the locals, will connect the two cultures by a means of coexisting with the wild world surrounding us. Nature knows no cultural or political boundaries.  

The Snow Leopard of the Himalayas introduced into the Adirondacks; A study of the conservation efforts and spiritual beliefs

Introduction:

The snow leopard of the Himalayas can be introduced into the Adirondacks through a study of the conservation efforts and spiritual beliefs that are correlated with the species. The story of the snow leopard in the Annapurna conservation area is one of the greatest success stories in conservation history.  This is an incredible accomplishment for how young the conservation area is, and for how new it is to the country of Nepal. With little scientific research in this area I looked at the basic principles behind the conservation efforts which ranges from real life experience that I gained through the locals, the ecology of the area and sociology and legends following the snow leopard. Annapurna conservation area used the famous Yellowstone model which was the idea of setting life aside from commercial development and settlement. Although this was a great start just preserving the land and wildlife was not enough. In Nepalese culture they always regard wildlife as part of natural heritage and they are now much more conscious about the preservation and conservation because it is believed that without human support and when a country loses its natural and cultural integrity it has lost something that will never be replaced. These ideas are what we can use to introduce the Himalayas into the Adirondacks. Looking at the main topics with the Nepali snow leopards we can see much potential for the feasibility of reintroducing native grey wolves back into the Adirondack park and restore the balance to the ecosystem. Creating a sustainable economic development and learning to coexist with the surrounding environment and wildlife will create a baseline needed for reintroduction using Nepal as a model.

Snow leopard

Many factors are likely to affect the persistence of large species, especially in an ecosystem as vulnerable as the Himalayas. Anthropogenic land use and resource use can greatly impact the survival of wildlife in this area. Due to this, anthropogenic changes need to be integrated into the biodiversity conservation plans. An animal highly impacted by these changes in Nepal is the snow leopard. Many habitats have been changed and altered yet a considerable amount of snow leopard habitats remain untouched by human alterations, and actions should be taken to assure this land remains unaltered. This project will highlight many conservation actions that can work on the snow leopard in Nepal, in addition to how it could be linked to the same conservation efforts working in other places and on different species facing the same anthropogenic alterations. By using basic principles and real-life experience within their habitat range we can understand greatly how these techniques were successful and why they needed to be taken.

One of the main anthropogenic changes is climate change. This is occurring on a global scale and affecting species everywhere. Finding climate-adaptive conservation planning for this species could potentially create a baseline for conservationists facing the same issue of anthropogenic climate change. Snow leopards are important to their ecosystem because they control the growth of herbivore populations, which avoids risks of overpopulation, and degradation of natural resources. Connecting spirituality to conservation brings an aspect of culture into the bigger picture.

During the journey to Nepal, not only were conservation efforts  researched, but stories from the natives about the history of this symbolic animal. First, we can discuss actions taken to promote conservation of the species. The biggest battle of them all is how to combat poaching and the negative connotations which follow this species. Taking advantage of the work of the official rangers, and local people to collaborate with the enforcement to reduce illegal hunting they have launched the Citizen Ranger Wildlife protection program in 2014. This program aloud all rangers in the protected areas to receive custom law enforcement training. Following this approach, rangers and citizens within these local communities who stop or report poachers, are publicly honored and rewarded financially. This program is currently active in 22 state nature reserves national parks and more than a dozen rangers and citizens have received the awards they deserved for defending wildlife.  How they stop poaching by using snow leopard enterprises to create a sustainable economic opportunity for people who live in snow leopard habitats. These efforts greatly reduce the motivation behind poaching. Other approaches taken are Livestock insurance awarded to the loss of even a single animal to predation from snow leopards. This helps rural communities to reduce the negative financial impact of the snow leopard being present near their livestock. Awarding compensation reduced the negative connotations with this animal. Livestock vaccinations are also a means of conservation efforts. Living in a snow leopard habitat, predation itself is sometimes not the main problem. Some herder families have lost up to 5 times more livestock to disease then to predation. By offering a vaccination and ecosystem health programs in their general husbandry trainings inside these communities will greatly reduce the impacts of diseases brought onto livestock. In addition to compensation to herder families and prevention of diseases from living in these habitats, predation prevention is also being practiced. A strong acceptance of snow leopards must be maintained among the local herders and local people to coexists in these habitats. A work in progress of predation prevention is happening by creating incentives for more careful herding techniques, and by building predator proof corrals within these herding communities.

The main problems with Coexisting with wildlife all stems from the anthropogenic idea that we have more of a right to the land than other species. Through conservation education we can strengthen the community-based efforts as we go towards a new mindset that the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong in this world. Through education and knowledge comes inspiration for the next generation of nature and wildlife conservationists. The role of spiritual beliefs in conserving wildlife species sometimes is the main root of the approaches taken. While in Nepal I spoke to local people and heard some myths, legends and stories of the snow leopard regarding their spiritual concerns. The success story from the snow leopard conservation in Nepal could have potentially arose from the amount of religion and spirituality that thrives there, much like the spirituality within Native tribes in the Adirondacks.  Stories that were told all viewed the snow leopard as a creature that could not be harmed. In the northern societies of Nepal many indigenous beliefs and practices reflecting local pre-Buddhist traditions, were incorporated into the Buddhist ritual system. One of these rituals in Manang was connected to the snow leopard and its depredation forbids the alpine herders to roast meat, or the mountain god will send its “dog” (snow leopard) and one must suffer major livestock losses. Another story is one of great llamas making trips to Tibet in the form of snow leopards, in search of rare medicinal herbs, and they serve as a “fence” for the crops which means that in the absence of snow leopards livestock would be free ranging and they would invade and take over crop fields. Locals also believe that the snow leopards are considered to have taken birth to remove the sins of their past lives, this means that by killing these animals you now have their sins transferred to your own life. With this belief, killing a snow leopard is more sinful than its prey species, because now all sins the snow leopard committed during its lifetime by killing its prey is now transferred to you. After hearing My research suggested that they were only found at much higher elevations, but witnesses said otherwise, and I realized I was so close to snow leopard habitat. Throughout the Trek to poon hill, we had some canine friends join us the entire way. They slept outside of our teahouse doors at night and stayed close the entire time. With not being used to wild dogs, I assumed it was because they were protecting us, but, they were seeking protection from us. My counterparts told me they follow for protection from wolves, and snow leopards.

Wolves in the Adirondacks;

Looking at the main topics discussed with the Nepali snow leopards, we can see much potential for the feasibility of reintroducing native wolves back into the Adirondack park. Starting with basic principles such as real-life experience and the ecology and sociology just like we previously discussed. Highlighting the most important conservation action plans and comparing them to the approaches taken with the snow leopards we can see how the environment is one of the main components when considering the feasibility of this restoration program.  Although the two areas are vastly different and miles apart, the mountainous ranges compare, and we can assess the potential effects on local ecosystem considering the rare and sensitive biota in the ecosystem. The story of the Grey wolf in the Adirondacks starts over 100 years ago. It was said that wolves were locally extinct from the Adirondack park. In 2002 a hunter believed that he shot what was a coyote, yet it turned out to be a pure bred grey wolf. After this, many people have reported sightings of this animal. Grey wolves can survive in a multitude of habitats ranging from arctic tundra, to mixed forests, to savannah. Before becoming endangered they were found globally, but know their range is limited. Once ruling out that this species was a grey wolf, much discussion about re introducing them into the Adirondacks has taken place. There are many ways we could do this, and there are already many conservation groups taking on and diving head first into this project.

Wolves are native to the Adirondacks and they have every right to this land. Restoring a native, natural predator into the environment, we could create a balance which could have potentially left with the wolf population. With, prey for the wolves us adequate and the habitat can support and work with this species. Looking at other wolfish species, they live in this area, coexist with the ecosystem and habitat, survive and thrive. Reintroduction of this species could potentially help the few that people believe are already here. the layout of the Adirondack park may lead to the wolf population becoming isolated from the rest of the population, yet with human interference we could monitor this, and allow this to remain a viable population.  The absence of wolves has left the ecology of the Adirondacks unbalanced and unadjusted. Without the, there is a predator gap in the ecosystem. Wolves are predators just like the snow leopard of Nepal. Using the same approached that were successful in this habitat could potentially be adjusted and adapted into the Adirondack park to help restore the balance in our ecosystem. Reintroduction could lead to a success story for many species such as deer, beaver, coyote and moose by preying on the old and the sick. This would create a healthier population of species within the Adirondack park.

The spiritual aspect will come from local people within the Adirondack park. Connecting myths, legends and stories to the ones we will hear in Nepal.  Spiritual aspect will help us gain a better understanding behind the natural history behind these two-amazing species. Connecting with the locals within the Adirondack park we got the spiritual story from an indigenous native. Native American tribes recognized the wolf for its extreme devotion to its family, and many drew parallels between wolf pack members and the members of the tribe. Also, the wolf’s superior and cooperative hunting skills made it the envy of many tribes. Finally, the wolf was known to defend its home against outsiders, a task with which each tribe had to contend as well. Unlike the now leopard, this creature was not feared, yet honored for its pack mentality and loyalty.

Highlighting the most important aspects within the conservation approaches that would need to be taken to make reintroduction feasible will show us the similarities between both species and habitats. Habitat selection by wolves is suggested to be predictible. We can create a model of potential wolf habitat by generalizing site specific models using areas that were previously exterpated. It would require us to modify each site to reflect the local conditions and also assess the feasibility of successful approaches taken on the snow leopards of the Himalayas. Modeling how wolves may behave and react in a new environment works under the rules of probability more than absolutism, so creating models will build a base of possible outcomes based on our research. Areas that may differ from the himalayas to the adirondacks would be landscape complexity, prey abundance, prey diversity, and also the extent of human development or impact. The main goal of reintroduction is to obtain sustainable limits, and provide a habiat for abundant and stable population. Mainly we need to establish wolf packs, and not simply individual wolves or the population will not thrive without this essential biological and social aspect necessary for long term reintoduction. Models include aspects of Human attitude and spiritual values: human/ wolf coexistence is a main factor for creating a viable popualtion. Creating a level of protection and buffering populations against human conflicts. Adding in buffer zones and corridors allows for an expansion on suitable habitats by allowing the use of developed land, yet still reducing mortality. Wolves need abundant, diverse, and accessible prey base: wolves require a very large biomass. The adirondacks are known as a multi-prey system which means that there are many different species combining to provide a total biomass large enough to sustain predators like wolves. Wolf packs need well and evenly distributed patches of high quality Habitat: some studies suggest that they need areas that are exposed to fewer than 1,000 people a month. The Adirondacks is not a densily populated area and it comprises of high quality habitats which would maintain small populations of wolves. Distance between patches would influence the habitat quality, but if the patches are partially attached to larger continous habitats it could easily provide a quaily of habitat to sustain wolf packs. Wolf packs need opportunities and freedome to move undisturbed amoung high quality habitats within the Adirondack park: to prevent againt extinction and genetic isolation all habitats must be linked and undisturbed by human interferance. The Adirondack park is highly fragmented which could be a potential problem, but could be room for corridors and protected areas. Undisturbed and secure denning sites are needed to sustain populations: this would include seasonal management and protection. Typical denning seasons are from April 15th through July 30th , during this time there would need to be strict regulations and restricted entry zones. Traffic volume on highways reachable by wolves should have a low amount of traffic, allowing them to saftley make it to patches: speed limits should be lowered near crossing sites. They should also be clearly identified and adjusted. This is an approach that would benefit all wildlife in the adirondack park Diseases introduced to the wolf population would be a threat to the populations viability: diseases would mainly be from domestic animals, yet new diseases have potential to emerge within wild populations and spread to domestic animals. This could be a potential problem for farmers and those who rely on domestic animals for a source of income.

 

Discussion:

Conservation efforts for the grey wolf in the Adirondacks would be using a community approach and not a single species management. Based on evidence of habitat requirements and tolerance to human activities developing a conservation approach to sustain a viable population and maintain future development to match the ecological needs of the wolves. We need to protect the habitats suitable for the population to be healthy and preserve the paths between subpopulations of packs allowing movement and socialization. Management actions include increasing habitat capability, minimizing separation and fragmentation between patches, especially in the winter, and controlling any potential means of direct mortality and threats to the populations. Creating the need for habitat manipulation to resemble natural processes is extremely important for the support of the environment on wolf populations.  Comparing the essential needs of a sustainable wolf population to the successful approach of the Snow leopards in the Himalayas can be broken down into each individual category and carefully assessed and altered to each habitat range and ecosystem making it species specific. The story of the Grey wolf in the Adirondacks almost happened to the Nepali snow leopard, but with spiritual belief, scientific knowledge and proper education they learned to coexist. I believe that Nepal created a great model and such as people idolize the Yellowstone model, we can bring this system into the Adirondacks for our keystone species.

 

References

 

Alexander, J. S., Cusack, J. J., Pengju, C., Kun, S., & Riordan, P. (2016). Conservation of snow leopards: spill-over benefits for other carnivores?. Oryx, 50(2), 239-243. doi:10.1017/S0030605315001040

Enck, J. W., & Brown, T. L. (2002). New Yorker’s attitude torward restoring wolves to the Adirondack Park. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 30(1), 16.

Ensuring snow leopard survival and conserving mountain landscapes by expanding environmental awareness and sharing innovative practices through community stewardship and partnerships. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://snowleopardconservancy.org/

Fitzgerald, K. (1997). A homecoming for wolves in the northern forest. Wild Earth, 7(1), 61.

Johansson, Ö., Rauset, G. R., Samelius, G., McCarthy, T., Andrén, H., Tumursukh, L., & Mishra, C. (2016). Land sharing is essential for snow leopard conservation. Biological Conservation, 2031-7. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.08.034

LI, J., WANG, D., YIN, H., ZHAXI, D., JIAGONG, Z., SCHALLER, G. B., & … LU, Z. (2014). Role of Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in Snow Leopard Conservation. Conservation Biology, 28(1), 87-94. doi:10.1111/cobi.12135

 

 

 

   

                 

 

               

      

 

 

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