Dr Rinjan Shrestha is a conservation scientist for WWF-US, Eastern Himalayas Program and he’s currently in the small Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan working on a project researching snow leopards and mushrooms. Rinjan recently led a survey team that captured the first photographic evidence through camera trap survey that snow leopards are thriving in Wangchuck Centennial Park.
He is back in the field in Bhutan and sent a short report of his current activities to “Saving Snow Leopards” Blog.
“For my assignment in Bhutan, I am currently working in the central range (27° 51’ N, 90° 39’ E) of the Wangchuck Centennial Park. Our objective has been to count blue sheep numbers and estimate snow leopard population in the region by employing direct counts and camera-trap surveys, respectively. So far, we have completed blue sheep counts. The camera traps were systematically laid out in late winter and early spring this year. I expect the first round of data to arrive by the last week of May, 2012. I’m also planning to assess the impact of Cordyceps (mushroom) collection on the activity and movement of snow leopards in the region.
Cordyceps is a type of fungi (mushroom) also called the Chinese caterpillar and the name intriguingly means “summer plant and winter insect” because of its changing appearance in the seasons. They have for hundreds of years been regarded as medicinal by the Tibetans and Chinese and are collected by people in the high ranges of snow leopard habitat.
The information collected by Rinjan and his team is vital to understand the health of snow leopard populations in this part of Bhutan and we look forward to hearing the outcome of his work in months to come.
Rinjan says “The photo here shows my field crew, consisting of park ranger, Tenzing Wandga, forester Leki Dorje (an expert high-altitude botanist), forester Nawang Tashi and intern Gempo Wangdi. We were also accompanied by Chhokpa, the headman of the Nasphelle village, and Tenzing, a horseman with 12 horses, who is always ready to fix tents, bags and boots with his magic needles and yak hair threads.”
You can read more on the WWF Blog.