Himalayan Wolf (Canis himalayansis)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925244
This was the first project on the wolves in the Himalayan region of India. The main objectives were to gather the information about the status, distribution, conflict with human due to livestock predation and, further, identify the important areas for wolf conservation. Earlier to this project, only one study (Fox and Chundawat, 1995) mentioned their status and distribution in limited regions of Trans-Himalayan landscape. During this study, Kashmir Valley in Himalayas and Trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand were surveyed.
Major findings of this project were that the presence of wolf in Himalayas could be in much larger area than earlier understanding. The wolf is distributed all along the Trans-Himalayan landscape, but their presence is prevalent in a few areas such as- Kashmir valley, Changthang region of Ladakh and Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary of Himachal Pradesh. Attributing to generally large home ranges of wolves elsewhere in the world, a larger distribution does not translate to a good population size. A large portion of the wolf population in these areas exists outside the protected area network, which is alarming for the initiatives of their conservation. Conflict with human for livestock predation is mainly related with the livestock grazing practice and unavoidable in situations where human and wildlife share the same habitat.
Trans-Himalayan landscape is the world's highest region and the area remains snow-covered for eight to six months a year. Most of the part is difficult to approach for its remoteness and the working window was quite small. Trans-Himalayas cover 186,000 km2 area in Indian territory and we surveyed an additional 12,000 km2 area in the Kashmir valley as well. A poor road-network further reduced the efficiency during the survey. Several communities living in these areas are nomadic in nature and keep migrating. Following and meeting the people for questionnaire surveys was a time consuming process. Ensuring the predation case associated with wolf was difficult in lower regions where other carnivores also contribute.
The project was successful in delineating and estimating the potential distribution range of wolves in Himalayas in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The range of habitat variables that limits their distribution was also estimated. Presence of wolf and the conflict level were estimated region-wise and state-wise and it helped in identifying the key areas of wolf conservation. Moreover, a discrepancy in the nomenclature and identification of wolf populations in the region was found during the study. It is of utmost importance to recognize any species and name it correctly to give an impetus to the conservation efforts. We recommend a landscape level genetics study to sort out the issues regarding their nomenclature.
Project 0925244 location - India, Asia