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A Communal Sign Post of Snow Leopards (Panthera uncia) and Other Species on the Tibetan Plateau, China

Juan Li and George B. Schaller, et. al.; November 13, 2012

The snow leopard is a keystone species in mountain ecosystems of Central Asia and the Tibetan Plateau. However, little is known about the interactions between snow leopards and sympatric carnivores. Using infrared cameras, we found a rocky junction of two valleys in Sanjiangyuan area on the Tibetan Plateau where many mammals in this area passed and frequently marked and sniffed the site at the junction. We suggest that this site serves as a sign post to many species in this area, especially snow leopards and other carnivores. The marked signs may also alert the animals passing by to temporally segregate their activities to avoid potential conflicts. We used the Schoener index to measure the degree of temporal segregation among the species captured by infrared camera traps at this site. Our research reveals the probable ways of both intra- and interspecies communication and demonstrates that the degree of temporal segregation may correlate with the degree of potential interspecies competition. This is an important message to help understand the structure of animal communities. Discovery of the sign post clarifies the importance of identifying key habitats and sites of both snow leopards and other species for more effective conservation.

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