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Livestock depredation by snow leopard and Tibetan wolf: Implications for herders’ livelihoods in Wangchuck Centennial National Park, Bhutan

Jamtsho, Yonten, Katel, Om
Pastoralism 2019 v.9 no.1 pp. 1
Cordyceps, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, altitude, financial economics, herd size, herding, human-wildlife relations, income, livelihood, livestock, national parks, pastures, predators, prescribed burning, questionnaires, rearing, wildlife, wolves, Bhutan, Himalayan region
Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a serious problem in many parts of the world, and Bhutan’s Wangchuck Centennial National Park (WCNP) is no exception. Located in the remote alpine areas of the eastern Himalaya, wildlife species such as snow leopard (SL) and Tibetan wolf (TW) are reported to kill livestock in many parts of the Park. Such depredation is believed to have affected the livelihoods of high-altitude herding communities, resulting in conflicts between them. This study provides analysis on the extent of livestock depredation by wildlife predators such as SL and TW and examines its implications for the livelihoods of herding communities of Choekhortoe and Dhur regions of WCNP. Using semi-structured questionnaires, all herders (n = 38) in the study area were interviewed. The questions pertained to livestock population, frequency of depredation and income lost due to depredation in the last five years from 2012 to 2016. This study recorded 2,815 livestock heads in the study area, with an average herd size of 74.1 stock. The average herd size holding showed a decreasing trend over the years, and one of the reasons cited by the herders is depredation by SL and TW and other predators. This loss equated to an average annual financial loss equivalent to 10.2% (US$837) of their total per capita cash income. Such losses have resulted in negative impacts on herders’ livelihood; e.g. six herders (2012-2016) even stopped rearing livestock and resorted to an alternate source of cash income. The livestock intensification programmes, including pasture improvement through allowing controlled burning, and financial compensation, may be some potential short-term solutions to reduce conflict between herders and predators. Issuing permits for cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) collection only to the herders and instilling the sense of stewardship to highland herders may be one of the long-term solutions.