Rishi Kumar Sharma

Alumnus, High Altitudes


I obtained my Masters degree in Wildlife Science from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun in 2005. My master’s dissertation was an evaluation of population-density estimation approaches for tigers at Kanha Tiger Reserve, India. Subsequently I worked in the “All India Tiger Monitoring Project” carrying out the responsibilities of designing camera trap surveys, evaluating study design issues and assisting in radio-telemetry work. This was followed by a two year stint is the enchanting Sundarbans where I studied tigers in their unique mangrove habitat.

I am currently studying snow leopards in the Indian Trans-HImalayas to understand snow leopard habitat use at multiple spatial scales in multiple use landscapes.

A list of my publications is available at http://www.mendeley.com/profiles/rishi-sharma2/

My primary interests include carnivore ecology, animal behaviour and conservation biology. I run a blog about my experiences with nature, the species I study and the local communities I interact with at http://mountainmaple.blogspot.in/


  • Journal Article
    Commensal in conflict: Livestock depredation patterns by free-ranging domestic dogs in the Upper Spiti Landscape, Himachal Pradesh, India
    Chandrima Home, Ranjana Pal, Rishi Kumar Sharma, Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi, Yash Veer Bhatnagar, Abi Tamim Vanak
    Ambio: doi:10.1007/s13280-016-0858-6

    PDF, 1.89 MB

    In human-populated landscapes worldwide, domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the most abundant terrestrial carnivore. Although dogs have been used for the protection of livestock from wild carnivores, they have also been implicated as predators of livestock. We used a combination of methods (field surveys, interview surveys, and data from secondary sources) to examine the patterns and factors driving livestock depredation by free-ranging dogs, as well as economic losses to local communities in a Trans-Himalayan agro-pastoralist landscape in India. Our results show that livestock abundance was a better predictor of depredation in the villages than local dog abundance. Dogs mainly killed small-bodied livestock and sheep were the most selected prey. Dogs were responsible for the majority of livestock losses, with losses being comparable to that by snow leopards. This high level of conflict may disrupt community benefits from conservation programs and potentially undermine the conservation efforts in the region through a range of cascading effects.

  • Book Chapter
    South Asia: India. In Snow leopards. Biodiversity of the world: conservation from genes to landscapes. Series editor: Philip J. Nyhus, Volume editors: Thomas McCarthy, David Mallon. 
    Yash Veer Bhatnagar, Vinod Bihari Mathur, Sambandam Sathyakumar, Abhishek Ghoshal, Rishi Kumar Sharma, Ajay Bijoor, R Raghunath, Radhika Timbadia, Panna Lal
    Elsevier - Academic Press, Pages 457-469, ISBN: 978-0-12-802213-9

    PDF, 4.31 MB

    India has a rich natural history record from the Himalaya spanning over a century. In this paper we provide an overview of existing knowledge on snow leopard, especially from the more recent studies. A knowledge gap analysis revealed barely 3% of its range is relatively well studied, although snow leopards occur pervasively across ca. 100,000 km2 in the Indian Himalaya. Only 37% of its range appears to be ‘good’ habitat. Based on recent density estimates and their extrapolation over the range, India is likely to support about 500 snow leopards. Threats vary regionally, but livestock grazing by migratory herders and recent developmental pressures appear to be the most serious conservation issues threatening snow leopard and other wildlife in the snow leopard range. Given the pervasive snow leopard occurrence and human pressures, the general consensus and national strategy is to formulate and implement knowledge based, participatory programmes over large landscapes.

  • Journal Article
    Does livestock benefit or harm snow leopards?
    Biological Conservation, 190: 8-13

    Large carnivores commonly prey on livestock when their ranges overlap. Pastoralism is the dominant land use type across the distributional range of the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia. Snow leopards are often killed in retaliation against livestock depredation. Whether livestock, by forming an alternative prey, could potentially benefit snow leopards, or, whether livestock use of an area is detrimental to snow leopards is poorly understood. We examined snow leopard habitat use in a multiple use landscape that was comprised of sites varying in livestock abundance, wild prey abundance and human population size. We photographically sampled ten sites (average size 70 sq. km) using ten camera traps in each site, deployed for a period of 60 days. Snow leopard habitat use was computed as a Relative Use Index based on the total independent photographic captures and the number of snow leopard individuals captured at each site. We quantified livestock abundance, wild prey abundance, human population size and terrain ruggedness in each of the sites. Key variables influencing snow leopard habitat use were identified using Information Theory based model selection approach. Snow leopard habitat use was best explained by wild prey density, and showed a positive linear relationship with the abundance of wild ungulates. We found a hump-shaped relationship between snow leopard habitat use and livestock stocking density, with an initial increase in habitat use followed by a decline beyond a threshold of livestock density. Our results suggest that in the absence of direct persecution of snow leopards, livestock grazing and snow leopard habitat use are potentially compatible up to a certain threshold of livestock density, beyond which habitat use declines, presumably due to depressed wild ungulate abundance and associated anthropogenic disturbance.

  • Popular Article
    The mysterious cat of the high mountains
    The Hindu in School, 18 July

    Link: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-in-school/article3651355.ece

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