staring into Mustang…..

February 28, 2009

Pretty cold. The mountains of Mustang behind us.

Pretty cold. The mountains of Mustang behind us.

Seeing Som’s photo made me remember my last trek in Nepal in lower Mustang. It was a family and friends trek, eight of us, aged from 15 to 54! We didn’t see any snow leopards but had a great time despite sore muscles and some intergenerational challenges. The younger ones wanted to start each day at 11 am instead of 8 am – I could see their point, they nearly ran up the mountains…while we oldies slogged and slogged. But we were in Maoist territory – together we would go!




Snow leopards on roof of the world

February 28, 2009

My friend Som Ale, who I met on the Earthwatch Snow Leopard Conservation project in the late 1990’s recently sent me this beautiful pic. It was taken by a camera trap donated by the “Snow Leopard Conservancy”. Madhu Chettri and Ram B. Gurung of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project are the two local staff who were responsible for the photo which was taken in Mustang, western Nepal. They were supported by the Conservancy’s Chhimi Gurung.

Som’s been doing significant biodiversity project work to support snow leopard conservation, much of it with Rodney Jackson from the Snow Leopard Conservancy. The photo is truly beautiful.  The snow leopard is walking towards us, calmly, and above him/her a magnificent sky and small flapping Buddhist prayer flags. Well done to the local team that got this shot.

Som Ale's pic. Mustang, Nepal. Camera trap photo.

Mustang, Nepal. Camera trap photo. Madhu Chettri / Ram B. Gurung

We know snow leopards love high altitudes and remote areas. It doesn’t get more remote than this – the Mustang region in Nepal, where a small but strong community of Buddhists still live life in the same pattern of their ancestors hundreds of years ago. Houses of stone and mud, subsistence farming with corn and goats. The winters here are icy and bitter.

Som is continuing his snow leopard research with work in the Everest and Annapurna regions of Nepal. Both of these areas are stunning and have been visited by many trekkers over the last 30 years. I would like to think that snow leopard numbers here are increasing and that trekkers and locals can help that.

In the field – research in Xinjiang, China

February 28, 2009

Photo by Xinjiang Snow Leopard Project

The Xinjiang Snow Leopard Project (XSLP) is an initiative started by the Beijing Forestry University and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at Oxford University. You can read about the project on their website –

The team is working closely with the Xinjiang Government and local communities to research what’s happening with snow leopards and their prey in the Taxkurgan Nature Reserve of West Xinjiang.

The last published information about snow leopard numbers in this area is from the 1980s where George Schaller estimated in one of the local communities that there were between 50 and 75 snow leopards. This project is really important to see what has happened to the snow leopards here in the last 20 odd years. They already know from sightings by local herders that there are snow leopards still in the area and the 2009 work will help to establish numbers and impacts on local herder communities.

The team is keeping a blog of the project. Check it out here