Hello. My name’s Jonny Hanson. I’m a PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge, where I study the relationships between people and snow leopards in Nepal. There are only four to seven thousand of these endangered cats left in the wild, spread across 12 countries in South and Central Asia. One of the main threats they face is from conflict with local people, who often lose livestock to snow leopards, and can kill the cats in retaliation. In turn, snow leopards are a threat to the livelihoods of local communities, who are often quite poor and dependent on livestock farming.
My research is trying to help us understand these complex interactions. It seeks to build the most comprehensive picture so far of people’s conflicts with and attitudes to snow leopards, and how these are affected by characteristics like age, gender and religion. Crucially, the study also looks at whether families who are less dependent on livestock for their income, and who are included, rather than excluded, from managing local conservation issues, are more likely to have better relations with snow leopards.
Towards the end of 2013, I travelled to Nepal to check out the areas where I would be working and to meet local conservation partners, including the National Trust for Nature Conservation and the Snow Leopard Conservancy. I also did a trial run with the questionnaire that I would be using to gather information. Then, in February 2014, I headed back to Nepal for the main part of the project. Over three and a half months my research team and I travelled first to the Everest region and then to the Annapurna region to talk to more than 700 Nepali households. We walked hundreds of kilometres through some of the highest and most remote terrain on Earth; crossed mountain passes laden with heavy rucksacks full of important gear; and saw the most amazing scenery and wildlife. Unfortunately the amazing but elusive snow leopard decided not to show up!
Our research, though, is contributing to our understanding of this endangered species, and how we can help it to live alongside the remarkable communities who share its habitat. Along the way, myself and some other team members blogged – in words and photos – about our experiences in the field. Now that we’re back at our desks, we’ll also be posting the occasional article as interesting findings pop-up during the analysis phase of the project. But otherwise please enjoy reading about our adventures in Nepal.