Conservation – Genetics

snow leopard scrape with accompanying scat

Scrape with scat (in red circle)

Survey Methods: An Overview

Fecal or Scat Genotyping

This non-invasive survey technique is rapidly gaining ground as an efficient and cost-effective way to estimate numbers of cryptic or sparsely distributed carnivore species like the snow leopard. Biologists walk along the likely travel routes collecting scats known or suspected to have been deposited by snow leopards. These are then taken to a qualified laboratory, the mitochondrial DNA extracted, sequenced and interpreted.

For a discussion of genotyping in greater detail, see this page.

Advantages:
  • Non-invasive
  • Easy-to-conduct field surveys allowing for large areas to be surveyed in significantly less time than it takes to camera-trap snow leopards
  • Generates detailed information on actual number of snow leopards their gender, maternally inherited relatedness, movement patterns, and other aspects of population structure
Disadvantages:
  • Since genetic material deteriorates with age, fresh scats yield the best results
  • Analysis requires special laboratory facilities adhering to rigorous standards, along with well-trained, skilled personnel
  • Results are not available while in the field