Wildlife & Biodiversity

Himalayan wolves prey on as many as 39 species: Study

The study also found that more Himalayan wolves consumed a larger proportion of domestic than wild prey in areas that had regular livestock grazing and vice versa

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Wednesday 14 August 2019
The Himalayan Wolf is a unique lineage of wolves found across the Himalayas, the Tibetan Plateau and Inner Asia. Photo: Getty Images

Himalayan or Woolly wolves, a unique ancient lineage of wolves found in Asia, preys on as many as 39 different animals species, claimed a new study.

Wolves of the high rangelands of Asia, for instance, utilised domestic livestock more than wild prey, according to the study Dietary spectrum in Himalayan wolves: Comparative analysis of prey choice in conspecifics across high-elevation rangelands of Asia. 

The volume of wild prey increased in areas with limited livestock grazing, claimed the study published recently in the journal of Zoological Society of London.

Researchers Salvador Lyngdoh, Bilal Habib and Shivam Shrotriya wanted to understand wolf prey choice with respect to the Tibetan/ Himalayan wolves of Asia in particular, the levels of domestic and wild prey share in different sub-regions within their habitat range and the determinants of dietary choice in such regions with respect to prey characteristics and environmental variables.

They collected information in two ways: 

  • Data on Himalayan wolf diets across high-altitude rangelands from Asia through published sources
  • Unpublished literature and field-collected scats from Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, where diet information was missing. 

The landscape level study found that among wild prey, Przewalskii’s Horse (Equus ferus przewalskii), the world’s last wild horses found in Mongolia, Roe Deer (Cervus elaphus) and marmots were consumed relatively more compared to their availability. But species such as Goral (Naemorhedus goral), Bharal or Blue Sheep and Urial were underutilised.

“Our results indicate that wolf populations may be facing extreme threat due to extensive dependence on domestic prey and consequent livestock depredation related conflicts in much of its range. These regions are mostly low in productivity and highly overstocked,” the research noted.

The study advocated that “a trans-boundary strategy for prey and its protection or management in some areas to increase acceptance and conserve the species within its exclusive range is needed.”

Just last year, a study by a team of British and Nepalese researchers confirmed that the Himalayan wolf, a proposed taxonomic classification of a population of Tibetan wolves in the Himalayas and Tibet, was indeed a genetically unique lineage or race of wolves, which had to be conserved before it went extinct.

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