Scientist, High Altitudes
I did my Masters in Physics from the University of Bhopal. It was during this period that I also conducted a small study on the avian fauna of Bhopal, and developed my first stand-alone software to help identify birds. This led to my association with BNHS where I later joined as a Research Analyst. I carried out field research for four years in Panna National Park on Ecology, Distribution and Behaviour of Four-horned antelope and obtained my PhD from the Mumbai University.
My academic interests lie in quantitative ecology, population ecology, conservation biology, and ecological and GIS modeling. Study designs, data analyses, developing application algorithm for specific, and training are my inclinations in addition to conducting field work in remote locations.Apart from conducting field research and helping several research projects, I have delivered several lectures and interactive talks on wildlife and environment related issues. I have conducted several training workshops for capacity building of field workers, researchers and officers in various countries.
I now work with the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) as Regional Field Biologist, my main responsibilities are to help research planning, conduct training and field work, and help analyze research data in the various range country programs of SLT. I have recently worked with colleagues on developing protocols for monitoring snow leopards and its prey populations in Ladakh and Mongolia using detection/non-detection surveys.
- Journal Article2019Sampling bias in snow leopard population estimation studiesPopulation Ecology 10.1002/1438-390X.1027Download
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Accurate assessments of the status of threatened species and their conservation planning require reliable estimation of their global populations and robust monitoring of local population trends. We assessed the adequacy and suitability of studies in reliably estimating the global snow leopard (Panthera uncia) population. We compiled a dataset of all the peer-reviewed published literature on snow leopard population estimation. Metadata analysis showed estimates of snow leopard density to be a negative exponential function of area, suggesting that study areas have generally been too small for accurate density estimation, and sampling has often been biased towards the best habitats. Published studies are restricted to six of the 12 range countries, covering only 0.3–0.9% of the presumed global range of the species. Re-sampling of camera trap data from a relatively large study site (c.1684 km2) showed that small-sized study areas together with a bias towards good quality habitats in existing studies may have overestimated densities by up to five times. We conclude that current information is biased and inadequate for generating a reliable global population estimate of snow leopards. To develop a rigorous and useful baseline and to avoid pitfalls, there is an urgent need for (a) refinement of sampling and analytical protocols for population estimation of snow leopards (b) agreement and coordinated use of standardized sampling protocols amongst researchers and governments across the range, and (c) sampling larger and under-represented areas of the snow leopard's global range.
- Book Chapter2018Large Carnivore and Conservation and Management
- Report2017Valuation of Ecosystem Services in Snow Leopard Landscapes of AsiaMurali, R., Lkhagvajav, P., Saeed, U., Kizi, V.A., Zhumbai-Uulu, K., Nawaz, M.A., Bhatnagar, Y.V., Sharma, K., Mishra, C. 2017. Valuation of ecosystem services in snow leopard landscapes of Asia. Snow Leopard Trust, Nature Conservation Foundation, Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation, Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan, and Snow Leopard Foundation Pakistan. Report Submitted to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project on Transboundary Cooperation for Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Conservation.
- Dataset2017Data from: Assessing changes in distribution of the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia and its wild prey over 2 decades in the Indian Himalaya through interview-based occupancy surveys.DOI: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.hp4b3
The data set has occupancy values and local extinction probability values for 88 grids/sites of 15km X 15km each, for snow leopard, blue sheep, Asiatic ibex and wild prey (blue sheep and ibex combined), across an area of 14,616 sq.km in the Himalaya and Trans-Himalaya mountains of Himachal Pradesh, India.
- Journal Article2017Assessing changes in distribution of the Endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia and its wild prey over 2 decades in the Indian Himalaya through interviewbased occupancy surveysdoi:10.1017/S0030605317001107Download
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Understanding species distributions, patterns of change and threats can form the basis for assessing the conservation status of elusive species that are difficult to survey. The snow leopard Panthera uncia is the top predator of the Central and South Asian mountains. Knowledge of the distribution and status of this elusive felid and its wild prey is limited. Using recall-based key-informant interviews we estimated site use by snow leopards and their primary wild prey, blue sheep Pseudois nayaur and Asiatic ibex Capra sibirica, across two time periods (past: –; recent: –) in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. We also conducted a threat assessment for the recent period. Probability of site use was similar across the two time periods for snow leopards, blue sheep and ibex, whereas for wild prey (blue sheep and ibex combined) overall there was an % contraction. Although our surveys were conducted in areas within the presumed distribution range of the snow leopard, we found snow leopards were using only % of the area (, km). Blue sheep and ibex had distinct distribution ranges. Snow leopards and their wild prey were not restricted to protected areas, which encompassed only % of their distribution within the study area. Migratory livestock grazing was pervasive across ibex distribution range and was the most widespread and serious conservation threat. Depredation by free-ranging dogs, and illegal hunting and wildlife trade were the other severe threats. Our results underscore the importance of community-based, landscape- scale conservation approaches and caution against reliance on geophysical and opinion-based distribution maps that have been used to estimate national and global snow leopard ranges.
- Popular Article2016A four-horned flash of goldThe Hindu in School, 6 January
- Journal Article2015Status assessment of snow leopard and other large mammals in the Kyrgyz Alay using community knowledge corrected for imperfect detectionOryx
- Journal Article2014Vigorous Dynamics Underlie a Stable Population of the Endangered Snow Leopard Panthera uncia in Tost Mountains, South Gobi, MongoliaPLoS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101319
- Journal Article2014Tiger poaching and trafficking in India: estimating rates of occurrence and detection over four decadesBiological Conservation, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2014.08.016
Poaching, prey depletion and habitat destruction have decimated the world’s wild tiger population to fewer than 3200–4000. Despite focused efforts, poaching continues to be the key threat to tiger populations in India, home to more than half of the world’s tigers. A rise in the number of incidences of tiger poaching and trafficking may not essentially represent an increase in the actual occurrence of tiger poaching and trafficking, but can instead be an indication of better enforcement. With ad hoc detection rates, it becomes difficult to estimate the true quantum of poaching and the efficiency of enforcement. We empirically estimate the probability of occurrence of tiger crime and that of detecting it during periods of 3–7 years in the past 40 years in the 605 districts of India. We test the hypotheses that tiger crime is influenced by the presence of tiger trade hubs, proximity to a number of tiger habitats, and that tiger poachers prefer to use rail routes over road highways. The annual probability of detecting tiger crime was estimated to be highest (0.46, 95% CI = 0.38–0.54) in the period between 1993 and 1995. Our results identify 73 districts as current tiger crime hotspots with high (>0.5) probability of occurrence of tiger crime. We propose that the probability of occurrence of tiger crime can be a more reliable estimator of changing poaching pressures and that probability of detecting tiger crime provides a robust estimate of the efficiency in tackling tiger poaching and trafficking.
- Journal Article2014Vigorous dynamics underlie a stable population of the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia in Tost Mountains, South Gobi, Mongolia 12Plos ONE 9(7): e101319. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101319
Population monitoring programmes and estimation of vital rates are key to understanding the mechanisms of population growth, decline or stability, and are important for effective conservation action. We report, for the first time, the population trends and vital rates of the endangered snow leopard based on camera trapping over four years in the Tost Mountains, South Gobi, Mongolia. We used robust design multi-season mark-recapture analysis to estimate the trends in abundance, sex ratio, survival probability and the probability of temporary emigration and immigration for adult and young snow leopards. The snow leopard population remained constant over most of the study period, with no apparent growth (l = 1.08+20.25). Comparison of model results with the ‘‘known population’’ of radio-collared snow leopards suggested high accuracy in our estimates. Although seemingly stable, vigorous underlying dynamics were evident in this population, with the adult sex ratio shifting from being male-biased to female-biased (1.67 to 0.38 males per female) during the study. Adult survival probability was 0.82 (SE+20.08) and that of young was 0.83 (SE+20.15) and 0.77 (SE +20.2) respectively, before and after the age of 2 years. Young snow leopards showed a high probability of temporary emigration and immigration (0.6, SE +20.19 and 0.68, SE +20.32 before and after the age of 2 years) though not the adults (0.02 SE+20.07). While the current female-bias in the population and the number of cubs born each year seemingly render the study population safe, the vigorous dynamics suggests that the situation can change quickly. The reduction in the proportion of male snow leopards may be indicative of continuing anthropogenic pressures. Our work reiterates the importance of monitoring both the abundance and population dynamics of species for effective conservation.