KATHMANDU — The Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve in western Nepal is known for its pristine high-altitude grasslands, and buzzes with helicopter traffic every October and November, at the onset of winter. The choppers carry more than half a dozen foreigners, mostly from the U.S., Russia, Canada, Norway and Germany, typically clad in camouflage and wielding hunting rifles. They pay thousands of dollars each to private operators and in government fees to hunt two native species of wild goat: the Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) and the blue sheep, or bharal (Pseudois nayaur). The reserve was established in 1987 to both generate revenue and preserve this 1,325-square-kilometer (512-square-mile) alpine ecosystem. But hunting, both legal and illegal, may be having a negative impact on the ecosystem’s keystone species, a recent study suggests. The hunting quota for blue sheep, the main prey of snow leopards (Panthera uncia), is determined every five years when officials count the number of individuals found in the reserve and assess their age and sex. “However, when doing so, officials don’t take [account of] the behavioral changes in the animals that may have been triggered by hunting,” says Sanjay Kandel, lead author of the study published in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation. “Hunting must have changed their behavior in some ways, for example they may be afraid of people in general, we thought. So we decided to see it for ourselves.”   Lead author Sanjay Kandel and his assistant look for blue sheep at the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve in western…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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