Indian Army rescues injured snow leopard

March 5, 2010

Injured snow leopard in Indian Himalayas rescued by Indian Army and Dept of Wildlife officials.

Sketchy news about an injured snow leopard in Ladakh, in the Indian Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir. Apparently the Indian Army has rescued an injured snow leopard trapped near Tangtse, a tiny village about 50 km east of the capital, Leh.

One report said the snow leopard was hiding behind a big stone while another report had the snow leopard actually in the village. In any case the villagers no doubt felt the cat would be a threat to their livestock. It’s not known at this stage how the snow leopard came to be injured.

On hearing the news of the cat troops from a nearby Army unit rescued it with the help of a camouflage net and a blanket.

A team from the Department of Wild Life at Leh headed by Mr. Norbu, shifted the injured snow leopard to the Animal Rescue Centre with the help of the Army troops, where it was treated, fed and kept overnight. The injured leopard was then taken to Leh for further treatment & rehabilitation.

We look forward to hearing good news that this snow leopard can be released back into the wild.

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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.


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.


Spot the snow leopard!

February 1, 2010

Snow leopard camouflage. Photo by Kim Murray, Snow Leopard Trust.

We all know snow leopards have fabulous camouflage with their gray, white and yellowish fur and the spotty rosettes. But this really proves it. Kim Murray, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Assistant Director of Science took these photos and showed them to some school kids and asked where the snow leopard was hiding. They couldn’t find it, neither could I. (I squinted for over ten minutes at my computer screen).

Here it is!

Snow leopard revealed! Photo by Kim Murray, Snow Leopard Trust. Kim's working on the SLT's 10 year research project in the South Gobi, Mongolia.


Want a long trek in the Himalayas? Curl up with a great read.

January 27, 2010

Garry Weare

I’ve just finished a wonderful book about the Himalayas. Snow leopard country. It’s called “A long walk in the Himalayas – a trek from the Ganges to Kashmir” by Garry Weare.

Weare’s story of his five-month trek from the sacred source of the Ganges through the Kullu Valley, remote mountains of Zanskar and Ladakh (known as Little Tibet) to his beloved houseboat on a lake in Kashmir is an entertaining read. Throughout many years of travel in the Himalayas he has come to know the region, its peoples and cultures well and he writes about them with compassion, empathy and understanding.

"A long walk in the Himalayas"

Weare has serious Himalaya credentials. He’s a life member of the Himalayan Club, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a noted mountain photographer and a founding director of the Australian Himalayan Foundation.

The book is a travel log, a meditation on walking, a memoir of places visted and loved and a tale of adventure. His journey, which is taken with a secret stash of rum and whisky, involved walking 2500 kilometres, most of it above 5000 metres and crossing at least 20 passes, a tough experience and he lost over 15 kilos.

During a trek in September 1995 Garry was lucky to actually see a snow leopard. “I had left camp early to cross the Konze La, a pass in western Ladakh. There had been an unseasonable snowfall and ….I stopped to watch a herd of yaks. At that point I sensed I was not the only one watching the yaks. Glancing around I caught a glimpse of a large cat. I had seen enough snow leopards in zoo enclosures to know what I was looking at. I just had a glimpse and no more but it was sufficient and for a while I did not move, hoping against hope that the elusive cat would reappear. It was not to be.”

Garry recently tod me, “The cat sighting was after a particular early but heavy snowfall in September. However as you appreciate the best opportunity to get a cat sighting is during the winter soon after the first winter snowfall when the bharal (Himalayan blue sheep, a favourite snow leopard prey) head to the valleys and the cats follow.” Lucky him!! Is all I can say.

Currently Garry is working on a Primary Health Care project in Zanskar and Ladakh, Northern India supported by the Australian Himalayan Foundation. The project trains the local Amchis, traditional faith healers in basic western medical advice.  Often these Amchi are the only medical help available to villagers in remote parts of the mountains. Last year the ABC’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ did a segment on this project (see it here.) Absolutely fascinating.

You can support this and other Australian Himalayan Foundation projects here.


Forest fires threaten snow leopards in Nepal

January 19, 2010

Annapurna ranges from my last trek in the region in 2004.

Over the years I’ve heard of many different threats to the survival of snow leopards in the wild. In Nepal it now turns out that forest fires are also a threat to the cats. Last week a fire in the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) broke out after two hotel porters threw marijuana stubs onto a heavily wooded area.

“Though there have been no human casualties, forests of rhododendron and nigalo (arrow bamboo) worth millions of rupees have been destroyed in the fire. Many endangered species may have also died in the fire.” ACAP´s Ghandruk office chief Sudeep Adhikari said.

ACAP Project Director Lal Prasad Gurung said he has not seen fire on such scale in his 25-year conservation career and that the region is home to snow leopards and tahr (a large wild goat that is a prey species of the snow leopard) as well as numerous other animals. (Full story here.)

I live in Melbourne Victoria and know all too well the danger of bush or wildfire. Sadly we had horrendous fires here in February last year with the loss of 173 lives. Melbourne Zoo officials estimated millions of wild animals like kangaroos, koalas, wombats, possums and birds lost their lives in those fires too.


Rare bird joins snow leopards in Afghanistan

January 19, 2010
Photo WCS.

Photo by WCS.

“Researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have discovered for the first time the breeding area of the large-billed reed warbler — dubbed in 2007 as “the world’s least known bird species” — in the remote and rugged Wakhan Corridor of the Pamir Mountains of north-eastern Afghanistan. Situated between the mountainous regions of the Pamirs in Tajikistan, Pakistan, and China, the Wakhan Corridor supports a surprisingly wide range of large mammal species, including Marco Polo sheep (or argali), ibex, lynx, wolf, and the elusive snow leopard.” (Full story here.)

WCS camera trap photo of snow leopard 2009.

When I read this story this week I recalled that in August last year the WCS found evidence of snow leopards in the region too. (Read blog post here.)So what is this Wakhan corridor and why is it still home to rare birds and snow leopards at a time of such massive conflict in this country for the last 30 years?

Turns out (according to Wikipedia) the Wakhan Corridor is a long and slender land corridor along the easternmost section of Afghanistan in the Pamir Mountains. It’s approximately 210 kilometres (100 miles) long and between 20 kilometres (10 miles) and 60 kilometres (40 miles) wide.

It’s named after the Wakhan region of Afghanistan and connects the country to China in the east. It was once part of the Silk Road, the trade route that for hundreds of years connected central Asia with the Mediterranean countries. The Wakhan corridor region only has about 10,000 people and is one of the most peaceful regions in the country today. Both the low population and the fact that it isn’t an active war zone have made it possible for biologists to find this rare bird and snow leopards in the region in recent years. Let’s hope the objective of the WCS to establish a large wildlife protected area here can be pulled off.