In Ladakh, smartly-designed corrals keep snow leopards away from livestock
In the high-altitude Himalayan region of Ladakh, where resources are limited and survival is an everyday battle, human-wildlife conflict is on a gradual rise.
To reduce this stress on the local communities as well as the wildlife in this region -- and to manage conflict, WWF-India along with the Department of Wildlife Protection, Jammu and Kashmir, has initiated the construction of smart corrals that provide high protection to livestock from snow leopard attacks.
In the second week of September, the first set of such predator-proof corrals were formally handed over to the local communities of Tuna, Matho and Yangthang villages. The communities will now own and maintain these enclosures. These new corrals are expected to massively reduce conflict by fully protecting livestock from snow leopard attacks.
The stress of conflict
In Ladakh, where food and water resources are scarce and the dependence on livestock like yaks, cows, dzos (a yak-cow cross breed), sheep and goats is high, frequent snow leopard attacks on cattle are a major source of economic loss and distress to the local communities. According to studies conducted between 2006 and 2012, attacks on domestic livestock by wild predators like the snow leopard, black bear and wolves, have significantly increased. Snow leopard attacks are the cause of major concern – from three attacks in 2006 to 32 in 2010, 46 in 2011 and 55 recorded in 2012.
Based on sighting index and reported attacks, WWF-India in 2014 conducted a series of studies in 11 villages -- Matho, Shang, Taro, Stok, Phey, Fiang, Kheroo, Tambis, Khangral, Umba and Khanji -- of Ladakh, Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir.
Of them, three were the worst hit -- Khanji (13), Matho and Shang (8 each).
With agriculture being possible only for a short period of four months in these cold desert regions, livelihoods largely depend on cattle rearing and dairy produce. With limited livelihood options, the death of a single farm animal often costs the villagers dear.
The snow leopards are elusive cats which typically keep away from human habitation, confining themselves to higher altitudes of the Himalayas. Wild sheep and goats form the main prey base of these animals. However, over the past decade, increasing human intrusion is eating into the snow leopard habitat, boxing them in and degrading and fragmenting their forest. Additionally, regular extreme weather events related to climate change have been threatening this region, forcing herders to keep surplus livestock as a security against loss. This, in turn, adds to the stress, affecting the primary prey base and threatening the long-term survival of snow leopards.
WWF-India has been working in tandem with the Jammu and Kashmir wildlife protection department since 2008, to protect biodiversity and maximise livelihood options in the high-altitude Western Himalayas Landscape.
Economical, easy, smart corrals
These smartly designed corrals, constructed by our experienced field team in consultation with local communities are not only structured to be predator-proof, but also trap heat to maintain favourable temperatures within the cattle pens so that healthy conditions prevail and the yield of dairy products increase. Currently, corrals are also being constructed simultaneously in Changthang and Rong villages.
Cost-effective and easy to maintain, WWF-India envisions reducing HWC in the Himalayan region with these smart corrals. Indeed, the local communities are optimistic. Ishey Angmo, a villager from Matho village, Ladakh, who began operating the corrals recently, said, “The morning after we started using the newly-constructed corral, we saw snow leopard pug marks right on the top of it. It seems the animal had wandered atop my pen last night. Thanks to the predator proof corrals, the animal couldn’t reach my cattle and wreak havoc on my livelihood.”
For more information, contact:
Team leader, Western Himalayas Landscape, WWF-India:
Senior Communications Manager (Species and Landscape), WWF-India: