Cambridge’s postgraduate pioneers

With thanks to all the many people who have made this research possible…

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Jonny’s research is profiled in this article on pioneering postgraduates at the University of Cambridge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Conducting scoping interviews in the shadow of the Annapurna massif.  Photo by Prawesh Poudel

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Snow leopards and sustainability

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Jonny’s recent presentation on his research at the 17th Student Conference on Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge, 22nd – 24th March.

Presentation abstract (summary)

Given the prevalence of poverty and pastoralism across the snow leopard’s range, this talk addresses the assumptions that more diverse and resilient livelihoods, and a decentralised conservation governance model, will improve attitudes to and reduce conflict with the species. It also tests these assumptions in relation to snow leopard conservation. Using systematic sampling, a quantitative questionnaire was administered to 705 households at two sites in Nepal: Sagarmatha National Park, with a centralised governance model; and Annapurna Conservation Area, with a decentralised one. Seventy qualitative interviews were also collected for cross-methods triangulation. Regression models were the main form of analysis.

Attitudes to snow leopards were best predicted by attitudes to snow leopard conservation and numbers of livestock; with attitudes to snow leopard conservation, it was…

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Shangri-la

The third and final article in a Himalayan-themed series looks at what we can learn from the people of the region.

In East Asian mythology Shangri-la is a mystical paradise, a magical valley hidden somewhere in the fastness of the Himalayas. Travellers lucky enough to find this perfect place never want to leave, for it surpasses all others in peace, tranquillity and beauty. A fanciful story perhaps, but there just might be a grain of truth in there somewhere. For in remote parts of the Himalayas – as well as in other quieter corners of the planet – we find communities who, as a result of their limited contact with the frenetic modern world, have managed to retain important principles that are cornerstones of any idyllic existence: simplicity, community and ecology. Continue reading

The edges of His ways

The mountains speak of the greatness of God.  My second in a series of three blogs from the Himalayas discusses.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in the Everest region of Nepal, setting up a research project on people and snow leopards.  Nowhere is the vastness of the mountains as apparent as here.  Between the Khumbu glacier that tumbles from its eastern flank to the summit of the world’s highest mountain is a distance of over 3,500 vertical metres (11,550ft), more than three times the height of Ireland’s highest peak, Carrauntoohill.  And this reached from a base camp of around 5,300m/17,500ft that is already higher than any point in the whole of Europe.

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The snow leopard will lie down with the lamb

Our relationships with wildlife are sorely in need of Divine restoration.

I write these words from the heart of the Himalayas.  The days are shortening as autumn turns firmly into winter, and the ice creeps down from the snowclad peaks onto the valley floors.  In many ways, life goes on here as it has these many centuries: the harvest has been safely gathered in and people are preparing for the long, hard winter.  In other ways, the advent of roads, airstrips and telecommunications now allow these communities unprecedented access to the outside world, and vice versa.

This setting is also the backdrop for another age-old custom: that of conflict between man and beast.  The herds of livestock – yaks, horses, goats and sheep – that many people across the Himalayan region depend on for their livelihoods can be an attractive proposition to hungry predators, especially when their natural prey is scarce.  Wolf, bear, lynx and snow leopard can all kill domestic animals across the Himalayan region.  Not only does this threaten the wellbeing of households and communities, but also the persistence of these wildlife species, as they face potential retaliation from irate villagers.

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