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Leopard (Panthera pardus) occupancy in the Chure range of Nepal

Citation

Lamichhane, Babu Ram et al. (2021), Leopard (Panthera pardus) occupancy in the Chure range of Nepal, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.w0vt4b8s1

Abstract

Conservation of large carnivores like leopards requires large and interconnected habitats. Despite the wide geographic range of the leopard globally, only 17% of their habitat is within protected areas. Leopards are widely distributed in Nepal but their population status and occupancy is poorly understood. We carried out the sign-based leopard occupancy survey across the entire Chure range (~19,000 km2)to understand the habitat occupancy along with the covariates affecting their occupancy. Leopard signs were obtained from in 70 out of 223 grids surveyed, with a naïve leopard occupancy of 0.31. The model-averaged leopard occupancy was estimated to be 0.5732 (SE 0.0082) with a replication level detection probability of 0.2554 (SE 0.1142). The top model shows the additive effect of wild boar, ruggedness, presence of livestock and human population density positively affecting the leopard occupancy. The detection probability of leopard was higher outside the protected areas, less in the high NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) areas, and higher in the areas with livestock presence. Presence of wild boar was strong predictor of leopard occupancy followed by presence of livestock, ruggedness and human population density. Leopard occupancy was higher in west Chure (0.70±SE 0.047) having five protected areas compared to east Chure (0.46 ±SE0.043) with no protected areas. Protected areas and prey species had positive influence on leopard occupancy in west Chure range. Similarly in the east Chure, the leopard occupancy increased with prey, NDVI, and terrain ruggedness. Enhanced law enforcement and mass awareness activities are necessary to reduce poaching/killing of wild ungulates and leopards in the Chure range to increase leopard occupancy. In addition, maintaining the sufficient natural prey base can contribute to minimize the livestock depredation and hence, decrease the human-leopard conflict in the Chure range. 

Methods

The study area was divided into blocks, grids, and sub grids (Chure range, 19000 km2) (details in the paper). Each grid was 10 km x 10 km in size. Furthermore, each grid was subdivided into 16 sub-grids, each measuring 2 km by 2 km. The presence and absence of leopards within each sub-grid were collected. The leopard's occupancy was estimated using the software PRESENCE (details in the paper).

Usage Notes

Due to logistical constraints, the survey effort across the grids varies due to the rough terrain of the Chure range. As a result, we were unable to survey all of the sub-grids in the Chure range. In the datasheet, these missing sub-grids are referred to as 'null,' i.e. 1= leopard presence, 0= leopard absence, null= unsurveyed grids.

Funding

President Terai Chure Madhesh Conservation Development Board

President Terai Chure Madhesh Conservation Development Board