Authors

Daberger1 M, Kuemmerle T, Hamidi AK, Khalatbari L, Abolghasemi H, Mirzadeh HR, Ghoddousi A

Abstract

Livestock husbandry exerts major pressures on wildlife across the world. Large carnivores are particularly at risk because they are often killed by pastoralists as a preventive or precautionary response to livestock depredation. Minimizing the overlap between pastures and carnivore habitat can thus be a conservation strategy, but it remains often unclear which pastures should be targeted to maximize conservation benefits given a limited budget. We addressed this question for the last viable population of the Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) in northeastern Iran. By combining species distribution modeling with a spatial prioritization framework, we aimed to identify where grazing right buyouts should take place to reduce cheetah killing by herders and their dogs. We assessed the Asiatic cheetah habitat using species distribution models, highlighting large, contiguous areas that overlap with livestock pastures (5792 km2, equaling 72% of the total predicted suitable habitat). Subsequently, we used data on the number and distribution of livestock (~47,000 animals in 80 pastures) and applied a spatial prioritization method to identify pastures for grazing right buyouts for a range of budget scenarios (US$100,000–600,000). Pastures selected had a high level of irreplaceability and were generally stable across budget scenarios. Our results provide a novel approach to minimize encounter rates between cheetah and livestock, and thus the mortality risk, for one of the world's most endangered felids and highlight the potential of spatial prioritization as a tool to devise urgent conservation actions.

 

Journal: Conservation Science and Practice

Link: 10.1111/csp2.12832