“A rare and precious sight” Tom McCarthy reflects on seeing a snow leopard and her three cubs in the wild

March 4, 2010

Tom McCarthy in Mongolia, working on Snow Leopard Trust 10 year project. Photo Snow Leopard Trust.

Tom Mc Carthy is Director of Snow Leopard Programs for Panthera (the conservation agency started in 2006 to protect the world’s 36 species of wild cats). He’s currently working on a long term snow leopard project in Mongolia but recently wrote about an magical moment 12 years ago when he saw an elusive snow leopard mother and her three cubs in the wild.

“Routinely eluded by these secretive cats, I didn’t expect to see her today. Then, like a ghost, she appeared from a brush thicket three hundred yards down slope. For the first two minutes, I didn’t breath, hoping not to attract her attention….

Then, with no concern for stealth, three balls of fur exploded from the brush, crashing into their mother’s legs. Cubs! The 2-month-olds tussled with each other and rolled into a shallow ravine. I tucked myself farther into the shadow of the boulder, but at this distance I was surely well hidden. I thought.


An instant later, the mother leopard turned slowly and looked toward me. She seemed to stare directly into my telescope, clearly not pleased. With that, she abruptly departed, urging the three cubs to follow. Stopping to pick up a straggler in her mouth, she topped the next ridge, and the family disappeared. I tracked her many times over the next 4 months, yet she never allowed another glimpse of those cubs. A dozen years later, I reflect on that day, and am content to have had a moment in the presence of such a rare and precious sight.”

More on Tom McCarthy’s conservation work on the Panthera website here.

Full story here.


George Schaller working magic for snow leopards again

October 8, 2009
George Schaller with snow leopard cub. Photo by WCS.

George Schaller with snow leopard cub. Photo by WCS.

I’ve mentioned George Schaller many times on this blog – Ok, he’s my hero. He’s probably done more for snow leopard conservation than anyone else on the planet. George won the Indianapolis Prize in 2008 and during 2009 used the money  for snow leopard activities in China. Currently Vice President of Panthera and Senior Conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, George visited China’s Qinghai Province in May 2009 to  help initiate snow leopard programs supported by Panthera, an organization whose mission is to conserve the world’s 36 species of wild cats.

The Indianapolis Prize has just reported on George’s work there. Most of his work was conducted in the Sanjiangyuan Reserve (“Source of Three Rivers Reserve”—Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong ), which covers nearly 58,000 square miles, primarily at elevations above 11,800 feet.  In addition to assessing snow leopard presence and threats, the trip provided Peking University Ph.D. student Li Juan with the training she needs to start a snow leopard study this year. George and Juan traveled more than 2,600 miles to evaluate potential study areas for the student’s research project, and George will continue to mentor Juan as she pursues her Ph.D.

While in Asia, George met with representatives from the Snow Leopard Trust and Shan Shui, one of the leading conservation organizations in China , to create a new collaborative snow leopard research and conservation program. These organizations signed a long-term agreement that will bring much needed expertise and funding to efforts to save snow leopards in China , where as much as 50 percent of the remaining wild population exists.

“George Schaller’s extensive research, fieldwork and training have been essential to saving snow leopards in regions of China ,” said Tom McCarthy , Director of Snow Leopard Programs for Panthera. “I can’t think of a better use of the Indianapolis Prize funds than teaching future generations the urgency and necessity of wildlife conservation.”

“The important aspects of this project for me,” added Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, “are its collaborative and long-term nature.  It’s George’s innate ability to bring people together and to forge alliances that overcome the short-term problems of political or geographic conflicts in order to serve the greater good that makes him a hero for me, and for the world.  It seems he has again worked his magic for the snow leopards.”