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.


Poems and paintings of the Princess of Snow

March 18, 2010

Karma Wangchuk in mountains of Bhutan, a keen conservationist, teacher, poet and artist.

Karma Wangchuk from Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan “Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon” sent me some beautiful paintings and poems about snow leopards.

Karma teaches English at the College of Education in Paro, one of Bhutan’s main towns. He’s a keen nature lover and loves cooking, trekking, travelling, drama, dance, gardening and music. He has contributed paintings for the book “The Mammals of Bhutan.”

I was really impressed with Karma’s enthusiasm for his country’s environment and the endangered snow leopards there. As a teacher I’m sure he’ll be able to have a powerful influence over the way his country’s younger generation respond to wildlife like snow leopards in the coming years.

Karma’s interest in snow leopards was inspired by George Schaller’s very first pictures of snow leopard in the wild in the National Geographic magazine and like many of us, reading that wonderful book by Peter Matthiessen “The Snow Leopard”.

Karma's beautiful painting of a snow leopard. He travelled to India many times to see snow leopards in a Zoo there to do this lovely work.

As he’s never seen a snow leopard in the wild in Bhutan (neither have most people), Karma went all the way to a zoo in northern India, eight times, to see the snow leopard he’s painted in these lovely works. True dedication.

Bhutan (and the world) needs people like Karma!

The Emblem of Bhutan, tiny kingdom in the Himalayas and home to snow leopards

Karma’s Poems
I am a leopard of the snow
When the summer is high my spots glow.
Beware! It is a fatal force.
I am as silent as spirit
And as swift as the wind,
I am ever watching you
Though you do not see me,
You try to trace me
But I cannot be,
I live a lofty life
Where the snow meet the space
And where cold is second death.
I am the leopard of the snow
And when you steal my glow
You humans!
It will perhaps be my last glow.

——-

Higher! Higher still
Than the tricky towering peaks,
Challenging the prowess
Of this awe-inspiring denizen;
In the land of Yeti,
With its jagged rocks
And abyss of death.
Vast, virgin snow
Numbly awaiting gloom
In its unseen clutch.
But the spirit sneaks up undeterred,
Nonchalant stare, shunning vertigo,
Humbling every pass and peak.

Rejoice in this feline face!
Pass the tidings of its regal grace!
Always there and always aware,
Princess of snow,
Princess less known
To this dreary world of restless souls.


Mother and cubs photographed for first time in Tuva

March 17, 2010

First ever photos of snow leopards in Tuva, Russia. A mother and two cubs. Photo taken by Alexander Kuksin.

The first Russian-Mongolian research expedition to study snow leopard numbers in the Republic of Tuva ( tiny republic in the south of Russia) took the first ever photographs of snow leopards in that region.

The team found 14 tracks of the cats on the Tsagan-Shibetu ridge in the western part of the country just in the last few weeks. The photos include an adult female with her two grown cubs.

A close up of snow leopard in the tiny Republic of Tuva, southern part of Russia. First ever photos of snow leopards taken there last week. Photo by Alexander Kuksin.

Next month the research will continue across the border in Mongolia. Meanwhile the Russian team, along with WWF is also working on the possibility of eco-tourism in the region to support the local people in this remote part of the world where there is little in the way of employment. This is truly good news about snow leopard numbers in this region, a  hope that although numbers are small, they may be increasing.

Read more about Tuva and see a map at Wikipedia.


снежного барса – saving snow leopards of Kazakhstan

March 16, 2010

Snow Leopard Fund Kazakhstan

Oleg Loginov is a snow leopard zoologist, passionate about saving the last remaining endangered cats in Kazakhstan. Last month he contacted me with wishes for a Happy year of the Snow Leopard – something he’s working for.

Oleg lives in Ust-Kamenogorsk near Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan. He was formerly employed at Alma-Ata zoo in the capital. He’s the founder and director of the Snow Leopard Fund Kazakhstan which was launched in November 2009.

Kazakhstan map. Source Wikipedia.

I’m writing about Oleg because he is facing a huge battle. He’s passionate about saving snow leopards in his country. There was a time when snow leopards were numerous there but over the years, hunting, poaching and habitat loss have decimated the numbers. Estimates vary but it’s likely there are only 100 or so left.

Sadly not many people know or care about the snow leopard being endangered, and this includes many government officials. In fact some government officials still give snow leopard pelts as official gifts, thus sanctioning the killing of the rare cats. But Oleg is keen to research the remaining snow leopards and work with his fellow countrymen to save the animal from extinction in this region.

I’m going to write a bit about Oleg and his work over the next few months. It would be great to get support for him to help him in this important quest.

For more information (this site in Russian only) here.

Some interesting facts about Kazakhstan.
** It is ranked the 9th largest country in the world.
**I t is the world’s largest landlocked country.
** It is larger than Western Europe.


Zoo pioneers new method of snow leopard artificial insemination

March 11, 2010

Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan is hopeful of new snow leopard cubs after a pioneer articifial insemination of 11 year olde Serena.

Potter Park Zoo (in Michigan, USA) officials believe they completed one of the world’s first artificial inseminations of a snow leopard without surgery or anesthesia. Staff worked with 11 year old Serena for about a year, using behavioral training, to get her into a position where she could be inseminated.

Zoo veterinarian Tara Harrison said, ” surgery and anesthesia can be dangerous and stressful for animals, decreasing success rates.”

“Typically with these animals, in order to touch them, you have to anesthetize them because they’re dangerous,” Harrison said. “She understands that if she lays still and lets us touch her, she gets rewarded with a lot of food, which is a whole lot easier and safer for her than doing it under anesthesia.”

If the procedure is successful, Serena could have cubs in about 100 days. “It will take at least a month to find out whether she is pregnant”, Harrison said.

When Zoo use anesthesia, artificial insemination is successful about one in three times for snow leopards. Harrison believes Serena’s chances could be better because of the new procedure.

Full story here.


Avatar’s Na’avi people inspired by snow leopard eyes

March 11, 2010

John Rosengrant, from Legacy Effects, the team that did the special effects for Avatar said in an interview that the look of Pandora’s Na’avi people, with their huge eyes, was based on the eyes of the snow leopard. The team was inspired by snow leopard eyes and then experimented with the color, finally choosing a warm gold and less green than a real snow leopard’s eyes.

Snow leopard cubs by the way, have beautiful deep blue eyes until about 3-4 months of age.

“You always draw from nature,” says Rosengrant, “because you’re trying to make the unbelievable believable.”
More on Avatar’s special effects for the movie here.


Sad end

March 8, 2010

Captured snow leopard in Afghanistan. Photo by Richard Fite. Story USA Today.

As humans we’re always looking for the positive in a story. We have to look pretty deep to get a positive from this horrible story from Afghanistan this week. Some conservationists are saying it shows that local Afghans are more protective of snow leopards now – lets hope so. But the sad death of this animal was pretty shocking.

At the end of February a German civilian heard about a possible snow leopard for sale for $50,000. Richard Fite, a senior agricultural advisor with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, currently stationed in Afghanistan, said he became involved when an official in the Afghanistan National Environmental Protection Agency (ANEPA) did the right thing and contacted police.

When Fite saw the snow leopard it was in terrible condition

It “had been snared, had all four legs bound together, and was transported by truck for at least 2-3 days over a terrible road in cold damp weather, poked and prodded by many, held in captivity for a week.”

“For a normally solitary, wild animal, the mental stress would have been just unimaginable.  When I first saw the animal, on its fourth or fifth day of captivity, it was already in trouble — quite passive and subdued.  During the next two days, it became progressively more so.”

Fite worked with international and local officials to provide aid in the form of heavy mittens, an improvised rabies pole, an electric heater and medical supplies for the animal’s treatment. The Aria Guest House in Feyzabad, provided a secluded location for the cat.  It also provided food, staff, and a small propane heater. USAID organised a helicopter to transport the leopard back to the Wakhan corridor once it was healthy.

Sadly, despite everyone’s great efforts, the snow leopard died.

“It seemed to respond to subcutaneous fluids given the afternoon of the second day, but died early the following morning.” Full story here.

In a letter to the Snow Leopard Network members Fite said,  ” the final outcome of course is not what we all wished but on the positive side, I note that this incident generated a great amount of publicity for snow leopards in Afghanistan and that interest in this animal reached all the way to the highest levels of the Afghan government and the U.S. Embassy.  Perhaps that, at least, is a good sign for the future.”

Thankyou to ALL those people who desperately tried to save this animal.