Status Assessment of Wild Felids with a special focus on Clouded Leopard in Hugu-Kori Biodiversity Hotspot, Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal
Prasad Ghimirey, M.Sc, Friends of Nature, Kathmandu, Nepal
There are seven felid species (leopard, clouded leopard, Asiatic golden cat, marbled cat, Jungle cat, and leopard cat) found in
the mid hills and mountains of Nepal. The small felid species are one of the least studied groups of carnivores in Nepal especially
in the hills and mountains of Nepal whereas many studies have been conducted to know the status, ecology and population of the bigger
carnivores such as tiger and even leopard in the lowlands of the country. The diverse size of the felid species has made them to prey
upon varied family of animals and birds thus significantly helping to regulate the prey populations in the mid hill belt of Nepal.
Thus the proposed study aims to look at the general status of the species along with their activity patterns and prey base with the
help of camera trapping, sign survey and questionnaire survey.
The study area was located in the Parche Village Development Committee of Kaski District and had a core area of around 25 km2. The
livelihood of the local people is based primarily on livestock farming and agriculture. Recently there is an increasing trend of
tourism with facilities for home-stays in the major villages in the region.
The study had three specific objectives:
- Assess the presence/absence, relative abundance and food habits of wild felids
- Evaluate prey base for felids in the area
- Identify and document all known threats for the felids and their prey species
The primary method followed during the study was camera trapping. In total 15 camera trap units were used during the study.
Trap stations were selected based on the sign abundance indicative of frequent activity to maximize the capture probability
of the species. Sites with felid scats, pugmarks (track length X heel pad width) and scrapes were also used as trap stations.
Semi-structured questionnaires were used to acquire information about the status of species in the area; emphasis was given to
the informal discussions with the locals.
Camera traps were deployed in a total of 56 sites for an average of 6.5 trap nights each. The data was used to simply calculate
the capture rate [(Species’ photos/Total trap nights)*100] which is often used to create a Relative Abundance Index (RAI) which
is defined as the number of days required to obtain a photo-capture of a species. A total sampling effort of 364 trap nights
resulted in 12 species of mammals being trapped however the mouse that was recorded by camera traps remains unidentified.
Three different cat tracks
A total of 18 species were recorded with seven species of global conservation concern: 2 categorized as vulnerable, 5
as near threatened. Animals observed in photos from the camera traps include: Asiatic black bear, Assamese monkey,
barking deer, clouded leopard, Himalayan crestless porcupine, leopard, large Indian civet, leopard cat, orange-bellied
Himalayan squirrel, Himalayan serow, and yellow-throated marten. Scat or pellets observed from animals that were not seen
in the photographs include: Himalayan tahr, goral, and the Nepal grey langur. A golden jackal and an animal that may have
been a giant flying squirrel were reported by local residents but not observed by researchers. The most startling results
of this survey was that no species of the Family Canidae was captured by any of the camera traps nor was any evidence of
The presence of three species of felids (leopard, clouded leopard, and leopard cat) was confirmed. A clouded leopard was
photographed only once during the sampling effort. This is only the second instance of a clouded leopard being photographed
in Nepal since 1989.
Common LeopardLeopard Cat
The premier threats for the felids and their prey species in the area include habitat destruction, illegal hunting, and retaliatory killings. Retaliatory killings were not the premier threat for clouded leopards rather deforestation has the greatest impact on the species for it is a habitat specialist, taking refuge in dense broadleaf forests. People from the Gurung communities live in the surroundings of the survey area in villages with a large number of households (average of 50 households) which puts an enormous amount of pressure on the natural resources.
- Strict enforcement of the laws and policies in place
- Long term wildlife research inside the conservation area
- Regular patrolling inside the park area
- Promotion of non-wood cooking stoves
- Compensation scheme must be monitored carefully