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Climate change impacts snow leopards in China

Dr Philip Riordan and his team from Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford and the Wildlife Institute, Beijing Forestry University have been studying climate change impacts on snow leopards and the people sharing their habitat in China.

As China has about half of the total world’s snow leopard population and the mountain regions of Asia are being significantly impacted by climate change this is very important research work. The team intends the work to help policy makers in the region act to protect habitat, the livelihoods of local people and the endangered cat.

The team conducted field studies across China since 2008 focusing on snow leopards, their prey and on the way local people sharing snow leopard habitat use the land. The research shows direct and indirect impacts on snow leopards from climate change including increases in human populations into habitat areas. Increased livestock and grazing by domestic sheep and goats means less food for snow leopard prey animals like wild blue sheep. Sadly when snow leopards have less wild blue sheep as prey this means less snow leopards can survive.

The findings from this important study are being presented at the International Conference on Managing Protected Areas under Climate Change (IMPACT) in Dresden, Germany later in September 2012. Photo from the China project, Dr Philip Riordan.

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