Is it a snow leopard or isn’t it a snow leopard?

February 16, 2010

The discussion continues amongst snow leopard experts on the animal in the night video sent to me recently by a young US Army sergeant, Carl Duke. The video was taken in the war zone on the Pakistan / Afghanistan border with the amazing  Long-Range Advance Scout Surveillance System (LRAS3) from a distance of 8 kilometers.

Yellow throated marten. Photo Wikipedia.

Some snow leopard experts have said the animal is a marten (yellow throated marten) while others are still certain it is footage of the elusive cat. Those that believe it IS a snow leopard cite evidence like the difference in the way cats and martens move, the uniqueness of the snow leopard tail,  the way the animal is swaying the tail, the way it  is doing its scent marking and quite a few other characteristics.

One thing every one agrees on is the fantastic technology that was able to capture the animal and the fact that Carl has brought it to our attention. But as to snow leopard or not snow leopard – the jury appears to be still out. Stay tuned.

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Amazing night footage of snow leopard in war zone

February 4, 2010

World first for Snow Leopard Blog! A story about a soldier standing night guard at a small outpost who recognised one of the world’s most endangered and rare cats. Sergeant Carl Duke (US Army) sent me this amazing footage using advanced technology to film the snow leopard eight (!) kilometers in the distance. This was in the war zone on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Carl told the intriguing story of how the footage was obtained.

“This video was made in the late fall of 2008 at Combat Outpost Lowell near Kamu, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.  In the middle of the night SGT G was on guard scanning the surrounding hills when he spotted the animal with its give-away long thick tail. Fortunately, he had his personal camera on him and put it up to the screen of the LRAS3 (Long-Range Advance Scout Surveillance System) and pushed record.”

Location of night footage of snow leopard

Click image for close-up of the rugged mountains on the Afghanistan and Pakistan border where these videos were taken.

Carl said the snow leopard was most likely hunting for monkeys or livestock.

During his tour in Afghanistan Carl made a point of asking locals what they knew about snow leopards.  “Some people complained about them, one person said if you eat them you become more virile, another said someone had captured a cub and sold it a few years ago in Chawkay District, Konar Province.  One man claimed snow leopards shoot steel claws 15 meters!”

Long range advance scout surveillance system LRAS3. Photo Raytheon.

Naturally there’s little in the way of snow leopard research or conservation in this country, especially here in the dangerous border region, so it’s important any information be shared and Carl should be congratulated for his interest and concern about snow leopards. Carl said he hoped one day to go back to Afghanistan “I’ve heard a lot of great things about Afghanistan during the 60’s and 70’s. There’s so much I’d like to see and enjoy in Afghanistan – it’s just too dangerous now.”

Well done Carl, looking forward to hearing more about this story! Two more clips here.