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.


Getting photos of those wild snow leopards

March 4, 2009

Camera trap. Photo Snow Leopard Conservancy

Camera trap. Photo Snow Leopard Conservancy

Thanks to camera trapping techniques we’re getting more and more photos of snow leopards in the wild. Camera trapping is pretty expensive and time consuming. Expensive not because of the gear which is often a pretty standard camera but because of the effort it takes to make it happen. Firstly you’ve got to get a team into areas that are always remote cos that’s just were our dear furry friends hang out. Then you have to live there for a period of time because they don’t always come out on the first invitation. Sometimes like Steve Winter (see his award winning pic) it takes at least a few months of patience in harsh weather and altitude conditions. The current project the Snow Leopard Trust is running in Mongolia has researchers staying many months over a period of years!

 

The technique is used in a small area where you know there are at least a few snow leopards passing through because you’ve seen scats (droppings) or scrapings. The camera is set up on paths and trails and the picture is taken when the camera is triggered by the passing animal. The trigger goes off as the sensor senses body heat. Things can go wrong of course, like the batteries running out, the animal being too quick to be well photographed, the camera getting damaged etc. But as we can see from the many photos now being released the technology is really helping researchers learn more about snow leopard numbers and habitat.

 

If there are a couple of snow leopards in one area and the camera catches them then because each animal has unique markings in its rosettes you can distinguish between different individuals, although it’s usually hard to tell if they’re male or female.


Steve Winter talks about winning snow leopard photo

December 18, 2008
Steve Winter's photograph of a wild snow leopard wins 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008

Steve Winter's photograph of a wild snow leopard wins 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008

As you saw in a previous post Steve won the 2008 BBC Wildlife Photo of the year with his beautiful snow leopard in the snow shot. Here are a few words from Steve about how he got this spectacular picture. Go to this blog.


Another snow leopard photo wins award

December 9, 2008

Stephen Oachs photo of a snow leopard in Montana private reserve

Stephen Oachs photo of a snow leopard in Montana private reserve

It’s definitely the year for snow leopard photos. This photograph entitled “Endangered Beauty”, by acclaimed Fine Art Photographer Stephen W. Oachs, has won the National Geographic Viewer’s Choice Award for 2008. A beautiful photo, with the animal staring straight at us, he has captured the grace and strength of the endangered snow leopard. The black and white photo accentuates the cold landscape and the way the snow leopard merges into it.

Photographer Stephen W. Oachs’ winning photograph is of a snow leopard weaving through the snow on a private reserve in Montana, USA .


Snow Leopard pic wins Wildlife Photographer 2008 award

November 1, 2008

A picture of an elusive snow leopard has won the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008 award! The 44 year competition, is run by BBC Wildlife magazine and London’s Natural History Museum. Steve Winter spent 12 months with 14 trip cameras recording snow leopard photographs to get his beautiful shot in the wild.

Steve Winter / Snow Leopard Trust web site

Steve Winter / Snow Leopard Trust web site

The BBC news web site announces Steve Winter as the winner of the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award.