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.

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