Snow leopards take Manhattan

June 22, 2009
Central Park Zoo snow loepard exhibit. Photo by WCS / Julie Larsen Maher

Hot and cold rocks. Central Park Zoo snow leopard exhibit. Photo by WCS / Julie Larsen Maher

Last week three elusive snow leopards were seen for the first time in Central Park, New York. Central Park Zoo that is, with its brand new Allison Maher Stern Snow Leopard Exhibit. The three cats were named by school children, and are two females, Zoe and Chocolate, and one male, Bo.

The exhibit must be one of the most state of the art in the world and cost over $10m. Its got heated rocks to take the winter chill off and shallow caves and trees that are strategically placed for keeping cool in summer. The area has been specifically designed for the snow leopards and includes many behavioral enrichments like interesting scents (of rabbits!) developed by the World Conservation Society. The design focuses on improving cat health and well being through stimulating  exercises and activities for mind and body.

Visitors can get up close and personal through two close up glass areas and there is a lot of interactive graphic material for learning more about snow leopards and WCS’ work in the zoo and in the field to save these endangered cats.

First snow leopard sighting in Kashmir in 10 years

June 22, 2009

“It was the shortest seven minutes of my life” Aishwarya Maheshwari, a researcher with WWF India (a wildlife protection group) said after making the first confirmed sighting of a snow leopard in Kashmir in over 10 years. The region has seen a decade of political conflict and fighting between India and its neighbor, Pakistan.

Maheshwari and his three field assistants were observing a herd of Asiatic Ibex (a type of mountain goat) almost 4000m above sea level in the mountains of Kashmir, northern India when they saw pug marks and scat of what looked like a carnivore.

Suddenly there was a cloud of dust and through their binoculars they spotted a snow leopard chasing the Ibex who were running in all directions. The researchers were able to watch the cat for 7 minutes before it ran away.
This is good news for Maheshwari and his WWF India team who are doing a baseline wildlife study of the area.

More collaring success in Mongolia

May 28, 2009
SLT Mongolia project team in yurt

SLT Mongolia project team in yurt. Photo Snow Leopard Trust

Read the adventures of “Cookie guy”, also known as Orjan, a Swedish researcher working on radio collaring snow leopards in Mongolia. The locals like laughing at Orjan but he’s sure good at collaring wild snow leopards and collecting huge amounts of field data for the Snow Leopard Trust, an important wildlife protection group.
Over the last 12 months he and a local team have successfully collared 6 snow leopards in southern Mongolia. With GPS collars they’ve already learnt that the area the cats cover is over 1000 square km and covers more villages than previously thought. Important information because it turns out there are far more villages sharing the snow leopards’ habitat than the researchers knew. These are villages not taking part in the Snow Leopard Enterprise project and therefore still not supported financially if a snow leopard kills their livestock.  Read about Orjan’s continuing work here.