More collaring success in Mongolia

May 28, 2009
SLT Mongolia project team in yurt

SLT Mongolia project team in yurt. Photo Snow Leopard Trust

Read the adventures of “Cookie guy”, also known as Orjan, a Swedish researcher working on radio collaring snow leopards in Mongolia. The locals like laughing at Orjan but he’s sure good at collaring wild snow leopards and collecting huge amounts of field data for the Snow Leopard Trust, an important wildlife protection group.
Over the last 12 months he and a local team have successfully collared 6 snow leopards in southern Mongolia. With GPS collars they’ve already learnt that the area the cats cover is over 1000 square km and covers more villages than previously thought. Important information because it turns out there are far more villages sharing the snow leopards’ habitat than the researchers knew. These are villages not taking part in the Snow Leopard Enterprise project and therefore still not supported financially if a snow leopard kills their livestock.  Read about Orjan’s continuing work here.

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Saving sheep from snow leopards, saves the snow leopards

May 24, 2009
Snow leopard proof corral. Photo Snow Leopard Conservancy

Snow leopard proof corral. Photo Snow Leopard Conservancy

When snow leopards kill domestic livestock in the villages of the Himalayas they are usually then hunted and killed by the owners in retaliation. It’s easy to understand why villagers would do this. Often these sheep and goats are the only livelihood they have, representing meat and money without which they and their families would starve.

Snow leopard proof corral in Pakistan. Photo by Snow Leopard Conservancy

Snow leopard proof corral in Pakistan. Photo by Snow Leopard Conservancy

About 10 years ago many of the conservation agencies working with villagers realised that there was a simple solution to this problem – building better snow leopard proof corrals. Although the idea is simple, the tools and material like cyclone wire are relatively expensive and so donated by the agencies working with village people. With co-operative planning the Snow Leopard Conservancy for example, investigated the existing predator proof strategies of villagers in India and Pakistan.

They’ve come up with solutions that meet local needs and completed over 30 corrals (livestock pens) throughout northern India since the program began, serving over 200 households and over 3,000 head of livestock. Now that the xorrals have proper doors, windows and roofs made of wire mesh the snow leopards are no longer able to get into them. This story shows us another example of the potential for snow leopards and people to live side by side in a shared habitat.


Kyrgyz anti-poaching unit gets tough

May 23, 2009
NABU Gruppa Bars antipoaching unit

NABU Gruppa Bars anti poaching unit. Photo by NABU.

The “Gruppa Bars”, an anti-poaching unit was set up to save snow leopards in the Kyrgyz Republic 10 years ago with the help of funding from the German conservation agency NABU.

Gruppa Bars means ‘snow leopard’ in Kyrgyz. The team has far-reaching powers and is equipped with weapons. They have the power to arrest suspects and seize live animals, skins, weapons and other evidence.

In the last decade the Gruppa Bars have captured 180 poachers and confiscated many snow leopard pelts as well as furs from other endangered animals. They’ve also confiscated and destroyed hundreds of traps. There’s no doubt this team has made a huge difference in saving snow leopards in the country.

Since the late 90’s living standards fell sharply after the dissolution of the Soviet states and the demand for snow leopard parts (for traditional medicine in China) and fur meant the cats in Kyrgyzstan have been hunted relentlessly.

Female Alcu injured by a trap. Now lives in a reserve. Photo by NABU.

Female Alcu injured by a trap. Now lives in a reserve. Photo by NABU.

A few years ago three live cats were saved after they’d been captured in brutal traps. All had parts of their paws removed because of the traps and can’t hunt successfully or feed themselves. But they’re now living protected in a large enclosure in a NABU supported wildlife reserve.


You can help

May 14, 2009
Mongolia Conservation Project. SLT Photo

Mongolia Conservation Project. Snow Leopard Trust Photo

Many of the conservation programs I’ve discussed on this Blog wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of the folks at the Snow Leopard Trust.

You can turn your love for these beautiful cats into action today! Right now, your donation to the Snow Leopard Trust can have a big impact. Five donors, including the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, will match every donation dollar one-for-one, up to $40,000.  Please help protect snow leopards and donate today. Here.


Snow Leopard – beyond the myth

May 11, 2009
Nisar Malik

Nisar Malik

The ABC ran this beautiful program last night, our second snow leopard program on Melbourne TV in a week! It tracks the filming of a female snow leopard and her cub by Nisar Malik, a Pakistani journalist along with cameraman Mark Smith. They spent 18 months and two extreme winters getting footage of the cat hunting, resting, playing.

Malik was one of the team who got the first ever videos of wild snow leopards in 2004 for David Attenborough’s Planet Earth – The Mountains episode. He was so bewitched by the animal at the time he felt he had to go back and make a full length documentary about it and its habitat in the wilds of the Hindu Kush, the remote mountains where Pakistan meets Afghanistan.

After the first winter when the two men filmed the female and her cub they return later in summer after the devastating earthquake in Pakistan only to search for 8 weeks in vain. The only thing of interest they see are marmots, the small rodents snow leopards love to feast on.

Mark Smith films them from a hide but after two weeks he says wearily “I hate marmots” and hope they deafen each other with their vicious shrieks. Having spent many hours myself counting marmots in freezing weather, on my own, with nothing more than a chocolate bar to keep me sane, I know exactly how he feels.

Radio collared female. BBC film by Nisar Malik.

Radio collared female. BBC film by Nisar Malik.

Anyway Malik and Smith return again the next winter and meet their female cat again, only to discover she’s been radio collared. Malik is shocked (and I must say I was too when we see how its done). But, listening to the Snow Leopard Trust’s Tom McCarthy explain and see the cat doing her normal hunting and other behaviours we understand that she’s OK. We all know it’s important to get information about the cats in the wild in order to protect them longterm and this is really the only way.

Nisar’s photo gallery of this trip here.

Here is a small piece of the documentary from YouTube.


Apple’s ‘Snow Leopard’ soon to be released

May 7, 2009
Garry Barker The Age on Snow Leopard O/S

Garry Barker "The Age" newspaper on Snow Leopard O/S

We’ve all known for some time that Apple’s soon to be released operating system is named Snow Leopard (aka Mac OS X 10.6). And why not? I can see that the company and the product would like to be associated with a species that is hardy, built for incredible performance, speed, agility and astounding endurance in harsh environments.

But as Garry Barker The (Melbourne) Age’s Apple guru, pointed out today there is also the flip side to this story and perhaps Apple can help make history here.

Barker says – “… we should observe that an irony under the excitement about Apple’s Snow Leopard is that the real, furry cats are on the endangered list. Perhaps a dollar or two of the OS’s price could be donated to help save one of the more beautiful species on earth.”

Good on you Garry, for pointing that out. So how about it, Apple? A couple of dollars to the Snow Leopard Trust and the Snow Leopard Conservancy could make a HUGE difference to the future of this species and the people that share its harsh habitat, a difference that can mean life or death for both.


Illegal wildlife trade in Asia worth $10 billion

May 6, 2009

Illegal trade in wildlife in Asia is estimated at over $10 billion dollars, second only to weapons and drug smuggling. This is a staggering and potentially depressing story.
But ASEAN nations have recently made major commitments at an ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (WEN) meeting to improve enforcement and also halt habitat depletion. A sad case is that tiger numbers in Asia have gone from over 100,000 to just 4,000 in the last 90 years.

ASEAN WEN member map

ASEAN WEN member map

WEN was formed in 2005 and is the world’s largest wildlife law enforcement network that involves police, customs and environment agencies of all 10 ASEAN countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand.

For a full report on what the WEN meeting agreed to and the work of WEN see here.