Something old, something new

Doing a PhD is a bit like getting married: it’s a big commitment. Jonny explains, with a little help from an old wedding rhyme.

Something old

A PhD begins with history. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel so the first thing to do is assess what research has already been done, when, where and by whom. It means reading widely and deeply on the immediate subject matter you’re interested in – in my case snow leopards – as well as other related material. For me that includes previous work on other big cats species, carnivores and large animals, as well as research on agriculture, mountains, rural development and conservation governance (the different models for managing natural resources such as wildlife). All of that adds up a lot of documents that need sifting. My PhD proposal, which is a plan of how I’ll do my research, has around 365 references. The final thesis will have many more. Continue reading

21st century conservation

Jonny suggests that studying the study’s research team can tell us a lot about conservation today.

Conservation has come a long way since 1903. Back then, a group of British statesmen and naturalists formed the world’s first international conservation organisation, calling it ‘The Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire’. These be-whiskered Anglo-Saxon gentlemen, with their guns and safari suits, lived in a very different world to the one we inhabit today, albeit in the twilight of an era that was to be extinguished by the cataclysm of World War I. The safari suits, if not the guns, may have mostly gone since then but conservation has not. Over a century later, the microcosm that is our research team provides a window on a changed world. Continue reading

Water of life

Water is key to understanding snow leopard habitat and snow leopard conservation. Jonny explains.

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.


Life in the Himalayas is defined by water. It’s everywhere, but like in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, there’s less of it to drink than you might think. That’s because the majority of the water is ice and snow. Indeed, there’s so much ice and snow here that the region has been dubbed ‘The Third Pole’. Across the snow leopard’s mountain kingdom – in the Himalayas and other Central Asian ranges – there are four main ways that water relates to the species.

Continue reading

The long road to Jomsom

Maurice describes the ordeal that was their journey from Pokhara to Jomsom.

There are several ways to get to Jomsom. And when the destination is somewhere relatively remote and high in the mountain sthose options are usually limited t oeither 1 or 2 options. When flying is one of them, you do it. Thats my free piece of advice.

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The voices of those who matter

Maurice shares the stories, concerns and anecdotes of those who live side by side with the snow leopard.


“I have opinions of my own – strong opinions – but I don’t always agree with them.”
― George H.W. Bush

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a story. Everyone has doubts. This makes all men equal. Even if the opinions are wrong, the stories rubbish and the doubts unnecessary. Men will still be equal in this regard. Some more equal than others but that is another story.

Continue reading

Oh deer, what can the matter be?

Jonny writes about the snow leopard’s preferred prey in Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park.

Snow leopards are big cats.  Weighing between 35kg/77lbs and 55kg/121lbs, and with an active lifestyle in a cold environment, they need to eat a lot of food to keep them going and keep them warm.  Like all large felines, they tend to catch a big prey animal – like a wild sheep or goat – every couple of days if it’s available, and will often stay near the kill until it’s finished.  A snow leopard killing three sheep-sized animals every two weeks could therefore get through around 75 in a year.  That’s a lot of lamb chops. Continue reading

The Killing Fields of the Himalaya

Maurice recounts the worrying level of predation by snow leopards in SNP 

We look at each other and shake our heads.

It is an outrageous claim…but what if its true? That would be worrying to say the least.

Rinzin and I are sat in the home of the Chairman of the Buffer Zone User Group Committee. He nods, as if to back up his statement. Continue reading

Modern Day Monks

Maurice describes our encounter with the monks of Tengboche and the impact of Buddhism on Snow Leopard conservation

Sonam Sherpa sits opposite me. He’s 29 years old, has alert eyes, wears a red trekking jacket, nike shoes and Columbia brand trekking socks. He fingers a cell phone absentmindedly. He is what you would describe as a modern day monk. Continue reading

In search of the mystery cat…

Maurice discusses the fun in trying to find something that does not want to be found or simply does not exist…

Rinzin: ‘It can only be the Leopard Cat, the Marbled Cat doesn’t live at this altitude!’

We were hot on the trail. Accompanied by a National Park Officer from the Deboche Post (who is worth mentioning is single handedly responsible for monitoring any illegal activities in an area the size of a small country– and he has to do it on foot in what can only be inadequately described as an undulating landscape) we headed uphill from the settlement of Deboche at 3800m. Light was already fading. We hurried. Continue reading

Homeward bound

Another long walk for Jonny and a new chapter for the rest of the team.

My two weeks in the field setting up the research project were over.  Due to family commitments, it was time to head home.  So far, we’d conducted 15 interviews and almost 150 household surveys.  We were well on our way to achieving our goal of 26 interviews and 260 questionnaires in the Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park – 25% of all the households in the area. Continue reading

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