A Journey Through The Badlands
During the week of May 19, 2011, the young snow leopard Zaraa journeyed from our study area in the Tost Mountain region, 45 km. (~27 miles) north, across the Toson Bumba Mountain chain and all the way to another nearby chain called the Nemegt Mountains. What makes this northern trek so interesting is not the distance covered, but the fact that she is the first snow leopard in our study to reach the edge of the Toson Bumba Mountain range and actually cross over, then walk through an area we call the ‘badlands’ in order to reach this distant chain of mountains. The Nemegt Mountains are within the Gurvan Saikhan National Park and she is the first known cat to cross into this protected area. Zaraa had made a previous long trek in March and walked more than 150 km (~93 miles) in five days south to the China border and back.
The week of May 23rd, Zaraa gave us even more to talk about. She came all the way back to the Tost region, but suddenly her collar stopped transmitting properly, performing at only 25%! We then began receiving mortality signals and suspected that the collar may have dropped off on its own. And where was the collar’s location signal coming from? The heart of the badlands! So, Orjan jumped on his bike and went to recover the collar which holds all of the valuable additional data stored in the memory banks. We now have the collar, but Zaraa is ‘off grid’. We have learned a great deal from her about the world of dispersing female snow leopards. We hope we will see her again soon on the motion sensor cameras and perhaps recollar her in the future.
Aztai has continued to stay in the home range that previously belonged to Tsagaan, but even more interesting is that Khavar has taken over what used to be Aztai’s territory. Both males are using the exact same home range borders as their predecessor, and the question that arises is how Aztai and Khavar can tell so specifically where the borders had been. The female Tenger has begun to use a remarkably small territory- between 5-10 km2- indicating that she may be pregnant or already have cubs. We will carefully place cameras close (but not too close) to where Tenger has been staying and we hope to have photos that will explain her behavior soon. Lasya is using a similar size range as Tenger and we cannot rule out that she too might be pregnant.
New information is coming in every day about each one of these amazing cats and we look forward to bringing you another update soon!