Afghanistan wild snow leopard update

August 31, 2009
Wild snow leopard in remote Afghanistan. Photo by remote camera trap by WCS.

Wild snow leopard in remote Afghanistan. Photo by remote camera trap by WCS.

Great news from Afghanistan. For the second time in months the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has captured the elusive and rare snow leopard on film (with a camera trap) in the Sast Valley in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor.  It is estimated only 100-200 snow leopards still survive in Afghanistan and the cat is protected under Afghanistan’s new endangered species list which was created recently and outlaws hunting it.

The WCS is hoping to establish a new protected area around the Wakhan Corridor which will help protect any remaining snow leopards as well as other endagered wildlife from the region.


August 25, 2009
Gregor at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Rana Bayrakci.

Gregor at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Rana Bayrakci.

Recently I was in touch with Rana Bayakci, the Program Coordinator for the Snow Leopard Network (SLN) in Seattle, USA.  And what a coincidence!

Turns out Rana was a Keeper at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in the early 1990’s when she met Gregor, our beautiful male snow leopard who was at Melbourne Zoo for many years until his sad death last year aged 20 years. 

Gregor - yawning at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Rana Bayrakci.

Gregor - yawning at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Rana Bayrakci.

Gregor was one of the very first snow leopards Rana worked with when she started as a Keeper at Woodland Park. Rana, like many of us, fell in love with Gregor, his sister Katrina (who didn’t live very long), and his parents, Alex and Andrei. This was the family of snow leopards, Rana says, that put her on the path of snow leopard conservation work. 

In 1996, Rana actually visited Gregor at Melbourne Zoo and to her delight he remembered her. She says “it was wonderful to see him, he remembered me, the keepers just loved him, and he had a great perch right outside their break/office room window.”

Rana very kindly sent me some photos of Gregor from that time – he was as beautiful and full of personality then as we remember him.


Giant snow leopard leaps up city building

August 23, 2009
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo promoting its snow loepard conservation work. Photo by KOAA.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo promoting its snow leopard conservation work. Photo by KOAA.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado has raised money with its “Quarters for Conservation program” that is going towards snow leopard conservation in Mongolia. The Zoo is telling its story with a giant snow leopard poster on the Colorado Springs American National bank building.

Megan Sanders, one of the zoo’s animal behavior managers has just returned from Mongolia where she met with local villagers and herders to encourage them to work towards saving the snow leopards that share their habitat. Megan says that with conservation work it’s important to “approach it from a community based conservation action plan.”

By helping communities get better incomes from other sources “there isn’t that need to go out and poach or need to be illegally selling pelts and things like that on the black market.”

 See more on the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s snow leopard conservation support here.

How does “Quarters for Conservation” work? See here.


Indian army searching for snow leopards on sacred glacier

August 21, 2009
Gangotri glacier. Photo National Geographic George F. Mobley 1984.

Gangotri glacier. Photo National Geographic George F. Mobley 1984.

The Indian Army is getting involved in helping the environment and India’s endangered flora and fauna. 15 men will be going up to the sacred Gangotri glacier in northern India near China’s border to search for snow leopard sightings and evidence of a rare plant, the legendary Brahma kamal, a medicinal plant named after the Hindu God of creation. According to Commanding Officer Ajay Kothiyal, the research material would be forwarded to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and its scientists.

“Due to the area’s inaccessibility and extreme weather conditions, there has been little research on the flora and fauna in the Himalayan region. Flowers like the Brahma kamal, blue poppy, snow lotus and some local medicinal plants find mention in books only (written years ago) and so do rare species like the Ibex (snow goat) and snow leopard. We want to make available some recent data on their availability,” said Kothiyal.

The men will be climbing up around 4500 to 5500m and Kothiyal says “They will photograph and videograph all the rare flora and fauna they come across.

The Gangotri Glacier is a traditional Hindu pilgrimage site. Unfortunately researchers have found that the glacier is retreating possibly due to climate change.

Full article here.

“Retreat of the Gangotri Glacier and climate change”. Article by NASA’s Earth Observatory


Melbourne Zoo ‘Gobi’ gets namesake in Seattle

August 18, 2009
Gobi and Batu at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk WPG.

Gobi and Batu at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk WPG.

Our Gobi gets a namesake in the USA! The 11 week old male snow leopard was born at Woodland Park Zoo Seattle in May and over the weekend 35,000 entered a competition to name him and Gobi it is. His sister is Batu, which means firm and strong. Our Australian Gobi’s sister, Tashi, (Tibetan for lucky) is also firm and strong as I saw the other week when in front of a crowd of school kids she stole Gobi’s meat from him.


Woodland Park Zoo celebrates International Snow Leopard Day

August 16, 2009
Woodland Park Zoo International Snow Leopard Day August 2009

Woodland Park Zoo International Snow Leopard Day August 2009

This weekend the WPZ in Seattle celebrates International Snow Leopard Day with a series of conseravtion talks and the naming of their two recently born snow leopard cubs.

WPZ has one of the most successful snow leopard breeding programs and they do a lot of work with the Snow Leopard Trust. This is the Zoo that Helen Freeman, the founder of the Trust, worked at for many years.


August 13, 2009

I dropped by the Melbourne Zoo yesterday and visited the new cubs, Tashi and Gobi who are now 9 months old. The are almost as big as mum Meo from a distance. They were play fighting over a huge piece of meat, stalking each other through the grass, peeping around tree trunks and then pounce! Meo was sitting close by watching them intently. I guess she was checking how well her training was going.

A group of students from Mill Park secondary college came by with a sheet of questions about snow leopards from a project they’re working on. Fantastic! We had a great time chatting about the cats and conservation – by the end they were hooked!