Technology sensors in fight against poachers

October 30, 2008

Technology has changed just about everything we do in the last 10 years so why not use technology to save endangered animals from poaching? That’s exactly what Steve Gulick, a tech-head and keen conservation biologist supporter has done. He’s developed motion-triggered cameras for biologists studying chimps in the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park (NNNP) of the Republic of Congo. His system uses a network of metal detectors which can read moving metal objects like a machete or a rifle that a poacher may be carrying. It trips a sensor which in turn sends a radio signal to a wireless Internet gateway camouflaged somewhere nearby and then this signal is transmitted via satellite to the internet and a message logged and sent which reveals poachers’ positions. Rangers are then immediately able to go out and confront poachers rather than only learning about their presence from animal carcasses days later. How brilliant is that? It may even be that Trailguard, the name Steve has given it, could be used to identify poaching activities in snow leopard country in the high Altai mountains of central Asia. Here’s hoping.


News from Melbourne Zoo

October 28, 2008

Paul Clarke, the Foundation Manager at the Zoo told me Leon and Meo had mated successfully. Eeveryboy’s got fingers crossed for cubs! How exciting. There’ve been no snow leopard births at Melbourne Zoo for about 20 years.


Update on the snow leopards at Melb Zoo

October 28, 2008

Last week I had an industry workshop at the Melb Zoo and took the opportunity to visit the 4 snow leopards I’m sponsoring. Shimbu and Gregor (both aged around 20) share an enclosure and were very active. They stretched, lithely walked through undergrowth, lifted paws and legs while vigorously cat cleaning. At times they reflectively stared at the birds hopping through trees and grass in front of them. They were a treat to watch! Meo and Leon on the other hand, the young 6 yr olds in separate enclosures but next to each other, were both fast asleep. So much for the energy of the younger generation, or perhaps they’d been partying too much and sleeping in!
I had a coffee chat with Howie, (Adrian Howard) the snow leopard keeper who was just about to scoot off on some annual leave but he told me that the week before Leon and Meo had had a meeting which went well. Meo was happy for Leon to be near her and for about 7 minutes they looked at each other and mouthed the way snow leopards do. After the 7 mins it was clear Meo had had enough and the 2 were again popped into their own enclosures. Great news they are getting on so well!


In the field in Mongolia with Orjan from Sweden

October 28, 2008
Orjan Johansson is a Swedish PhD student who bought a one-way ticket to Mongolia to work at the base camp of the SL Trust’s long-term research project. He’s a Research Associate from the Grismo Wildlife Research Station in Riddarhyttan Sweden with lots of field experience with large carnivores (wolf, lion, mountain lion, etc.). Orjan’s been using GPS-collars in his research for many years. These are his adventures out in the cold mountains tracking these cats.

One cat captured for GPS collar fittng and hundreds of shots from the night camera. Keep up the great work Orjan na dthe rest of the team! Read more of the team’s regular blog.


“Action cat!” See great pics on Snow Leopard Trust’s Flickr site

October 28, 2008
Snow Leopard Trust

Snow Leopard Trust

Wow- what a spin. Go to the Trust’s Flickr photostream page for more spectacular pics of the cats in zoos and the wild.


Who said dogs and cats don’t get along?

October 28, 2008
Binder Park Zoo

Binder Park Zoo

Shanti, the three month old snow leopard cub at Binder Park Zoo recently got a couple of new playmates that she might have thought should be her traditional enemies. Two 10 week old boxer-mix puppies are to help provide her with companionship and socialization after she was removed from her mother after birth when mum couldn’t provide the normal mothering support for Shanti’s survival.

“We feel it’s very important to limit the amount of human contact that the cub receives to decrease her chances of imprinting on us,” said Jenny Barnett, Director of Wildlife Conservation at Binder Park Zoo. “Our purpose in having snow leopards at the Zoo is to educate our guests about conservation of this species but also to breed and maintain a genetically diverse group of animals that retain as many of their wild traits and instincts as possible,” she said.
“The possibility of future release back into the wild is unlikely but something we do not want to rule out. An animal that grows up to depend on humans can never be reintroduced back into the wild.” Apparently using dogs as a snow leopards best friend is becoming quite common practice in many zoos.

What’s the difference between a snow leopard and a snow lion?

October 28, 2008
Painting of snow lion

Painting of snow lion

It’s easy to get a little confused with snow lions and snow leopards. But snow lions are a mythical animal, they don’t exist. They are represented in Tibetan buddhism as the supporter and protector of the Buddha. In fact, Tibet’s national flag has a snow lion on it. You’ll see snow lions in Tibetan paintings and sculpture – they’re usually jolly looking, painted white with blue or green manes (see pic here.)

Snow leopards on the other hand are real animals – they are rare and endangered and live in one of the most extreme landscapes on earth – in the Himalayas at over 3000 metres (16,000 feet). They have been hunted and killed for their beautiful fur and because they occassionally kill  goats and sheep belonging to villagers in the area. But lots of conservation work is now being done to protect the snow leopard and we hope it will survive in the wild for many years to come.