Tag Archive | "himalayan wolf"

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Tracing the lineages of Himalayan Wolves

Posted on 21 December 2012 by RE Team

Wolves in the Himalayas, despite their abstruse status as distinct species or subspecies, serve an important role in the ecology of Trans-Himalaya, holding the status of the top predator along with the snow leopard. Wolves in India are protected by law under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. However, the wolves from the Himalayas are one of the least protected large mammals and also the least studied mammals of the country. The only study on their abundance, so far, concludes with the presence of only 350 animals in the wild. The fact revealed through the genetic studies, that they are the oldest lineage of the wolves in the world, adds to their importance with respect to conservation. The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun started a project on ecology and conservation of wolves in the Himalayas in 2010 to fill this information gap and formulate conservation measures for these mammals of high altitude.

An initial survey was conducted by a team of Wildlife Institute of India, to study the level and pattern of human–wolf conflict in their distribution area and mark their distribution range in the Himalayas, with identification of conservation priority areas for them. Studies show that these wolves are the top predators of livestock accounting for 60% of the total livestock loss because of predation, followed by the snow leopard (38%). Agriculture is limited in arduous living conditions in the Trans-Himalayan region and livelihood of local people is mainly dependent on small livestock. This landscape serves as a grazing ground for nomadic and local herders and is economically important to these groups. Moreover, low productivity in these areas constricts the population of wild prey population and brings the wolves into conflict with humans. This results in retaliatory killing of the wolves, which is one of the biggest threats to them.

We have already mentioned the effort from Wildlife Institute of India to conserve this rare wolves of Himalayan and Trans-Himalayan region (refer ). The team from the Institute, consisting Shivam Shrotriya, Salvador Lyngdoh and Dr. Bilal Habib, have recently extended their study on the lineages of various Himalayan/Trans-Himalayan wolves. An article published in “Current Science” magazine, they raised the grave concern in the in-conclusive taxonomy of the Himalayan wolves which may in-turn affect and mobilize the conservation efforts of the animal. It has been 165 years since the wolf of the Himalayas was first described but the conclusion on the exact taxonomy of the animal not yet arrived due lack of proper study and good genetic field sample from the field. B. H. Hodgson was the first to describe the Himalayan wolf as a distinct species,  Canis laniger,  in 1847.  After many scientists described and identified Himalayan wolves as different species and given various lineages. Some important snapshot from the article published in “Current Science” is given below:

“They (Sharma, D. K., Maldonado, R. E., Jhala, Y. V. and Fleischer, R. C), further, argue that Himalayan  C. lupus chanco  is the most ancestral and diverged at 800,000 years ago, when the Himalayan region was going through a major geologic and climatic upheaval.  Indian Canis lupus pallipes is altogether diverged from wolf-dog clade 400,000 years ago. These lineages are the oldest of all wolf lineages in the world, hence it is postulated that India could have been the centre of origin of wolf-dog clan. In this study, dogs were reported to be in close relation with the wolves from Europe and America, therefore, wolves of India might have not been used for domestication. Dogs have originated from multiple wolf ancestors and they started to diverge about 150,000 years ago. ”

 

Wolves from (a) Kashmir valley, North-west Himalayan region of India (courtesy: Mir M. Mansoor); (b) Sikkim Zoo - Captive-bred individuals, wild individuals were captured from Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, Trans-Himalayan Landscape (courtesy: Pankaj Kumar); (c) Leh- Ladakh, Trans-Himalayan Landscape (courtesy: Y. V. Bhatnagar); (d) Peninsular India, central Indian Landscape (courtesy: A. Patil).

 

“Taxonomic confusion regarding the identification and recognition of wolves from the Trans-Himalayan region of  India and parts of Tibet has persisted for the last 165 years. Hodgson
was the first to describe the Himalayan wolf as a distinct species,  Canis laniger, noting its well-developed frontal sinuses, unusually elongated muzzle, distinct coloration and the woolliness of its under fur (cited in Sharma et al.). Blanford later combined C. laniger with C. lupus and elevated the Indian wolf to  C. pallipes. His views about the wolves of Baluchinstan and Gilgit are consistent with the findings of Sharma  et al. Much later,  Pocock described both taxa as subspecies of  C. lupus, making  C. laniger and  C. pallipes parts of the more widely distributed C. lupus chanco and C. lupus pallipes respectively. These views were widely accepted until genetic analysis revealed otherwise and revived the discussion.

However, so far none of the studies has been able to sort out the problems related to the taxonomic identification of wolves of the Trans-Himalayan landscape of India.”

Please find the complete research article here.

 

 

Relivearth has identified Himalayan Wolf as one of the species that needs support and attention from public. Please view older articles on the species and support the cause of this research effort by commenting and providing ideas.

New Research to Save Himalayan Wolf

Himalayan Wolf:Conservation Thought

Time to Act for Himalayan Wolf

 

 

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New Research to Save Himalayan Wolf

Posted on 02 May 2012 by RE Team

Himalayan Wolf, one of the beautiful wolf species in the world, is considered one of the rare mammal too. Unfortunately, this gorgeous wolf found the Himalayan region has been studied on very few occasions. A proper study and research on the species is very important to save it from extinction. And the encouraging news is that Wildlife Institute of India has already initiated a project and it is already taking a roll.

Shivam Shrotriya, a researcher at Wildlife Institute of India, has completed the phase 1 of a project on “Ecology and conservation of Himalayan Wolf” under the guidance of Dr. Bilal Habib & Dr. Y.V. Jhala of the same institute. The project is also funded ‘The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund‘. The project focuses to fill the huge gap on the study on the biology and ecology of the Himalayan Wolves.

 

Ecology and Conservation of Himalayan Wolf

 

Till now whatever studies have been done on the Himalayan Wolves reveal that the Himalayan lineage of wolves, spread from Spiti to Sikkim, including Nepal are the most ancient lineages wolves of the world. Population estimation of wolves in Ladakh and Spiti by earlier studies revealed the presence of just around 350 individuals left in the wild.

The current research has taken various steps further on the Himalayan Wolf studies. The study concentrates on a baseline survey across the Himalayan and Trans-Himalayan landscapes to identify key areas for wolf conservation. Since October 2010, 90 villages and groups of nomadic herders have been visited and 244 interviews have been conducted using semi-structured questionnaires for obtaining records of wolf sighting by the local people and livestock predation, in the states of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in India. Indices were developed to compare the level of wolf-human conflict and wolf presence across the Protected Areas.

The initial results of the study reveals that Wolves accounted for 11.2% cases of livestock predation as compared to leopard (30.8%) and snow leopard (17.5%) in Himachal Pradesh and 57% cases compared to leopard (17.6%) in Jammu & Kashmir. In Himachal Pradesh, Conflict index was found to be higher in Kibber
Wildlife Sanctuary (9.12) followed by Pin Valley National Park (1.56). In Jammu & Kashmir, the Conflict index was higher in Thajwas-Baltal Wildlife Sanctuary (13.89) followed by Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary (9.43) and Changthang Cold Desert Sanctuary (4.08). Wolf Presence index
was higher in Kibber (0.76) followed by Pin Valley (0.34) and Hirpora (1.00) followed by Changthang (0.88) and Thajwas-Baltal (0.80). Considering if the livestock predation cases and the sightings by the people are relative to the abundance of wolves, Kibber and Thajwas-Baltal with adjoining Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuaries and Changthang Cold Desert Sanctuary are seen as potential sites of higher abundance.

These are pioneer data on the Himalayan Wolves behaviour and habitat. The project aims to go further deep in the research. We keep great hope for the success of this project which in turn will save one the magnificent species to vanish away from our sight.

 

Relivearth has identified Himalayan Wolf as one of the species that needs support and attention from public. Please view older articles on the species and support the cause of this research effort by commenting and providing ideas.

Tracing the lineages of Himalayan Wolves

Himalayan Wolf:Conservation Thought

Time to Act for Himalayan Wolf

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Himalayan Wolf:Conservation Thought

Posted on 30 May 2011 by RE Team

If a list of the most endangered mammals of Indian Subcontinent is made today, one species that should get a higher position, that is the Himalayan Wolf. Unfortunately this beautiful animal is getting much less attention than its required.

Himalayan Wolf was believed to be a subspecies of gray wolf called the Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus chanco). But recent studies on Himalayan Wolf by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has revealed some very interesting biological aspect of the animal. The extensive research suggested that the Himalayan Wolf should be considered as a distinct species and it is given the name Canis himalayensis. This scientific name was proposed as nomenclature and taxonomic change for Himalayan Wolf by the Nomenclature Specialist on the CITES Animals Committee in April 2009.

Unfortunately the status of the new species claim of the Himalayan wolf is still uncertain, but it is now widely considered as a distinct species. In today’s explored world, it is indeed a rare event to discover a new species of mammal, especially that of a large carnivore. The wolf is considered to be the most studied of Carnivores in the world and this the discovery is as thrilling as it is surprising. Another interesting face of the Himalayan Wolf is that unlike Gray Wolves, they are completely distinct from domestic dogs. It might be the the most ancient representative of the animals anywhere in the world. The Analysis done on genetic material from one of the wolves showed that its lineage stems back around 800,000 years.

Despite all these very important aspects of the Himalayan Wolf, the animal yet to get the status and attention it deserves. There is only ~350 Himalayan Wolves surviving in the trans-Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. The conservation of this animal is becoming urgent now.

Global Acceptance

The first hurdle in the conservation of the Himalayan Wolf is the older concept about the species. Till a decade back it was considered as a subspecies of Tibetian Wolf found in the high mountain regions of the Himalayan range. The Tibetain Wolf is a subspecies of Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus), one of the widely distributed mammal in the planet. The gray wolf is given “Least Concern” status by the IUCN Red List and so the Tibetian Wolf. Still being considered a variety of Tibetian Wolf by many, the Himalayan Wolf getting the least concern signal from many conservationists. The stand from IUCN Red List to declare this as a separate species and put in the critically endangered status is uncertain.

Education, Conflict & Compensation

The major threat to the Himalayan Wolf is it’s conflict with the local villagers in the region of its habitat. The wolf locally known as Shanku, is considered as the key threat to the livestock of the villagers. There is a strained relationship existed between the villagers and the wildlife of the region, specially the carnivores like Himalayan Wolf. The Himalayan Wolf is a big menace to the local people as every year it is accountable for at least 100 livestock killings in the region. The amount of damage caused by this animal force the villagers to take drastic steps as killing them or poison them. Adding more to their agony, the government or any organization have come up to support these people.

With shrinking habitat for the wolves, the conflict and preying on livestock is increasing resulting in more killings of this rare wolf. Now it requires a full fledged campaign to educate the local people about the importance of Himalayan Wolf for eco balance. There are organization like “Snow Leopard Conservancy” and project like “Muse” that focuses on the Sustainable development, education among the local by linking their economical growth to the wildlife. The organizations are doing good job by bringing revenues to the villages via eco-tourism. The new generation is becoming aware of the wildlife due to these efforts. But this is not enough to save the species like Himalayan Wolf whose territory is wide covering more than 70000 sq km. More involvement from the government is expected to bring a huge change. There should be proper compensation for the loss of livestock which brings down anger of the people against the wolves. Also the process to get the compensation should be made easier for the villagers. A tedious process will not be fruitful.

Special Protection Zone

Another major problem with the conservation of the Himalayan Wolf is protected area. There is no protected area declared by Indian Government till now for this rare mammal species. The increasing agriculture and population in the villages slowly shrinking the habitat of the Himalayan Wolves. This is a grave concern for the species. When the breeding ground of a species is affected, the survival of the species comes under a question! There should be initiative from the government to make sure that outsiders don’t disturb or pollute the habitat of the Himalayan Wolves. The probable places will be Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh where groups of Himalayan wolves are sighted frequently.

Global Climate Change

One major threat that is affecting the whole wildlife in the Himalayan region is the climate change. The global warming or the increasing temperature is causing glacier melt in the region. The Himalayan wolf who survives in this low temperature region are facing habitat issue due to the glacier melts. This is one global issue and if special care not taken to the Himalayan Wolf, they can be one of the initial victims of the global warming.

Effective Captive Breeding

Captive Breeding programs are started for the Himalayan Wolves in four Zoos in India. These are Padmaja Naidu Himalayan, Zoological Park, Darjeeling; Himalayan Zoological Park, Gangtok; Himalayan Nature Park, Kufri; and Pt. Gobind Vallabh Pant High Altitude Zoo, Nainital. These are programs for Tibetian wolves and there is no special program for the Himalayan wolves. The captive breeding population is around 20. More funds and area to be put under these captive breeding programs to make it successful. A major challenge faced by animals bred in captivity is their struggle to adjust in the wild where they need to feed and protect themselves. Only Darjeeling Zoo is trying to solve this problem of the Himalayan endangered species by planning to set up an off display breeding centre. The primary objective of such an initiative is to release the zoo bred animals to the wild with the near wild environment of the proposed centre facilitating both breeding and honing of hunting skills of these animals. These kind of special facilities need to be started in all the Zoos for the Himalayan Wolves.

Please provide more thoughts and suggestion to Save the Himalayan Wolf!

 

Relivearth has identified Himalayan Wolf as one of the species that needs support and attention from public. Please view older articles on the species and support the cause of this research effort by commenting and providing ideas.

Tracing the lineages of Himalayan Wolves

New Research to Save Himalayan Wolf

Time to Act for Himalayan Wolf

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MOST CONCERNED ENDANGERED SPECIES

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