Help Mongolia’s herdsmen and women in worst winter in decades

April 11, 2010

Men standing with livestock killed by extreme winter in Mongolia. Photo Sheila Zhao, GlobalPost

Mongolia has been going through a “dzud,” an extremely cold winter following a summer drought. According to the Mongolian government, an estimated 4.5 million animals have died across the country in the last few months, a huge blow to the herding community that makes up a large part of the population.

A nomadic herdswoman in remote part of Mongolia suffering worst winter cold and snow in decades. Photo by Sheila Zhao, GlobalPost

Record snowfalls and temperatures plummeted to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 59 Farenheit), making this the worst dzud in decades.

Herding communities depend on livestock for 90% of their income and officials worry an increase in crime, begging and prostitution may result, as desperate herding families, unable to find alternatives, seek to feed themselves and their families.

In the southern part of Mongolia, snow leopard region, the “dzud” may also encourage snow leopard poaching, despite recent years of successful community collaboration projects with organisations like the Snow Leopard Trust, protecting the endangered cats.

The government and UNICEF have appealed to the local and international community for urgent support to reach the herders with fodder, fuel, medicines, food and warm clothing.

Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative in Mongolia said recently,  “The UN is acutely aware of the need to reach increasingly isolated populations with fuel and medicines, to get those in need out to trained medical care and to provide hygiene kits to stem the spread of disease, to ensure safe delivery and newborn care and to prevent the deepening of chronic malnutrition in this country.”

UNICEF says it faces a critical need for an additional USD 400,000 for medical supplies, equipment, micronutrients, and hygiene interventions as well as $322,000 to reach the growing number of affected communities with other life saving interventions.

The Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) has established a relief fund to help families through this crisis. An SLT partner, the Snow Leopard Trust UK, is giving $12,000 raised by Snow Leopard Vodka for aid like hay for remaining livestock. ‘Good on you’ to the folks at Snow Leopard Vodka!

If you’d like to support this effort to help the herding communities of Mongolia at this critical time you can do so through the Snow Leopard Trust here.

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Tracking snow leopards over 60km in Mongolia

March 23, 2010

Map showing Snow Leopard Trust Mongolia camp and movement of some of the collared cats. This is the most successful project ever to collar cats and research their behavior and movement over lengthy periods of time. Follow the adventures of the team and the cats on the SLT Blog. Map from SLT Blog.

This project is making snow leopard research history, no doubt about it. The Snow Leopard Trust continues to gather huge amounts of data with a new male cat collared in Mongolia on February 16th. The snow leopard, called M7 by the Trust team, has covered rugged terrain across mountains and made a kill. The team are having world breaking success in this project,  having collared 7 cats in total now and following them with the GPS collars for over a year.

Read more of the team’s adventures and follow in the footsteps of the collared snow leopards in the stark and remote south Gobi area of Mongolia on the  Snow Leopard Trust Blog.

Meet all the collared cats and read about their foibles and their movements on the Trust’s Blog here.


Spot the snow leopard!

February 1, 2010

Snow leopard camouflage. Photo by Kim Murray, Snow Leopard Trust.

We all know snow leopards have fabulous camouflage with their gray, white and yellowish fur and the spotty rosettes. But this really proves it. Kim Murray, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Assistant Director of Science took these photos and showed them to some school kids and asked where the snow leopard was hiding. They couldn’t find it, neither could I. (I squinted for over ten minutes at my computer screen).

Here it is!

Snow leopard revealed! Photo by Kim Murray, Snow Leopard Trust. Kim's working on the SLT's 10 year research project in the South Gobi, Mongolia.


November 1, 2009
Tracking snow leopards in Mongolia. Map from Snow Leopard Trust blog.

Tracking snow leopards in Mongolia. The different colors represent the different snow leopards. Map from Snow Leopard Trust blog.

The Snow Leopard Trust’s Mongolia project is going full steam ahead and the team is getting heaps of data on the cats they are watching – check out the blog for the movements of Saikhan, Shonkhor, Aztai, Itgel and Tsagaan in the Gobi desert and the Tost and Toson Bumba Mountains of Mongolia. Isn’t technology wonderful? Just to think we can watch where these cats are moving across remote and mountainous region – fantastic. Not only that, but by seeing a cat stay in one place for a few days the researchers know the animal has made a kill and is eating.

Check the SLT blog for regular exciting updates. Learn more detail about all the cats that have been radio collared on the blog About the Cats Page.


Mongolian recipe to celebrate snow leopard blog birthday

October 31, 2009
Bayara. Photo from Panthera website.

Bayara. Photo from Panthera website.

 Here’s the next recipe to celebrate the snow leopard blog’s first birthday. I’m covering a recipe from each of the 12 snow leopard range countries. I haven’t been to Mongolia so I recently asked Bayarjargal (Bayara) Agvaantseren the Executive Director and founder of the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (SLCF) in Mongolia for a suggested recipe. I’ve wanted to blog about Bayara anyway as she recently won the $25,000 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation. The prize goes to “a special individual who has already made a significant contribution to conserving wild cats.” 

SLE rug from mongolia. Photo by Sibylle.

SLE rug from Mongolia. Photo by Sibylle.

I’m a big fan of Bayara’s as she is the one who started the community-based conservation program now known as Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE) in Mongolia. SLE supports the semi-nomadic herders in Mongolia, helping them increase their income through handicraft production in exchange for their tolerance of snow leopards. I’ve blogged about the beautiful crafts these people make before and indeed have a number of their rugs hanging on my study wall. They are sold here through the Snow Leopard Trust website. I’ll give another plug – they make wonderful Christmas presents and it’s definitely that time of year to to think about presents. 

Bayara began her career in snow leopard conservation as a member with Tom McCarthy’s (from the Snow Leopard Trust) snow leopard research team. She worked as a translator with herders and helps to understand human-snow leopard conflicts. She’s also been key in formulating Mongolia’s National Snow Leopard Policy and most recently played a key role in initiating the first ever long-term ecological study of snow leopards in South Gobi, Mongolia. 

See more about the prize on the Panthera website.

Mongolian steamed Buuz. Photo from Mongolfood website.

Mongolian steamed Buuz. Photo from Mongolfood website.

Bayara’s recipe is for Buuz – which is dough filled with traditionally lamb in Mongolia, but can be filled with chicken, beef or vegetables and then steamed. While I haven’t ever made them with lamb (not one of my favourites I must say) I have made them with chicken – absolutely delicious. The secret is all in the steaming method and making sure they don’t stick to the steamer which for some reason mine do all the time. Bayara suggests this recipe here.

 I’ve created a page for all the Snow Leopard blog birthday recipes together – see it here.


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.


How long is a snow leopard’s tail?

October 28, 2008

The Snow Leopard Trust team in Mongolia has been monitoring four cats for the last few months. Recently on their blog they measured the tail of one of the cats – called, of course – “Longtail” – and found that his tail is 92 cm long, which is almost as long as his body, (118 cm long).
Snow leopards’ long tails are very useful. They can wrap them around their bodies to keep warm in the cold and they use them to balance as they run and jump along dangerous rocks and cliff.