Follow The Cats
Since 2008, we have been visiting the sites where we seen our collared cats stop for periods of time. We referred to these as ‘clusters’ because we see them as a cluster of data points. Most often the cats stop traveling because they have killed a prey animal and will take a few days to eat. With some detective work, we can gather a lot of information about the animal killed, such as the species, age, sex and general health.
We also survey the habitat nearby to get a better understanding of where the snow leopards hunt. In some clusters the snow leopard has simply laid down to rest, and I have learned that snow leopards prefer to take naps in very, very steep and rugged terrain. Those sites involve a lot of climbing, balancing and telling oneself that vertigo is a highly irrational feeling.
On April 18th, our field researcher extraordinaire Orjan once again successfully captured a healthy snow leopard. We are excited to see where this cat’s home range is located and what size area he patrols.
The special opportunity of naming this cat – the 10th male to be part of the study – was auctioned off at our Fall Event. The winner is a board member of the Snow Leopard Trust, and he has chosen to name the cat in honor of his granddaughter Catalina, who was born late last year. The Greek origin of the name Catalina means “Pure” and this new snow leopard will be named after the Mongolian translation. We are proud to welcome “Ariun” into our study in honor of Catalina and her family.
Thanks to Orjan for his 36th safe capture of a snow leopard and to Catalina, who now has a beautiful namesake roaming the mountains of Mongolia.Photo of Ariun Courtesy of the Snow Leopard Trust/ Panthera
As Sumbee heads to Ulaanbaatar, he leaves our Mongolian base camp temporarily unmanned. Our staffing plan for the country is in development for 2012, but we hope to see Orjan make his return sometime this March. This would mean the beginning of a new collaring season, where we would have the chance to meet more snow leopards living in the area!
Khavar spent most of his time in the in the middle of his home range, although his did travel west toward Aztai and then east toward Khashaa and M9 between January 10-19. Khashaa and M9 continue to travel together, and came within .6 kilometers of Aztai on January 26th. Aztai traveled back and forth between the southeast and west regions of his home range.
Anu has been hunting less than 4 meters to the north of the badlands for the past month, and Lasya has had a number of close encounters. Lasya traveled extensively, and may have met up with Anu, Aztai, and Khashaa/M9 on separate occasions.
As we head into the 5th year of our long-term ecological study, six snow leopards are currently wearing GPS tracking collars, including Aztai, the first cat we had ever collared.
Aztai, an older male snow leopard, was seen exploring the southeastern portion of his range just before he returned to the area that overlaps with the incredible snow leopard mother, Khashaa. Khashaa is presently travelling with two cubs in an area close to Aztai’s home range. One cub, named M9, is a young male we fitted with a collar late last year.
Lasya continues to prefer the northern-most region of her range, even though it is not a region typically inhabited by snow leopards. Recently, she did venture through a wide valley that separates two large mountain ranges, but only for a short time.
Anu, another female who is similar is age to Lasya, has been seen regularly patrolling her home range, where she continues to overlap with the male Khavar. Khavar spent 9 days within 1km of our base camp before making an uncharacteristic expedition 8km northeast of his home range where he made a sizeable kill.
After receiving a tremendous amount of support in 2011, we have big plans for this program in the new year. Stay tuned for more updates in February!
Remember that you can also symbolically adopt one of the wild snow leopards in Mongolia!
Photos Courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust/ Panthera. Anu Not Yet Pictured.
We are thrilled to announce that one of Khashaa’s cubs has just been fitted with a GPS tracking collar! This young male weighed in at 30.7 kg and we believe him to be about 1.5 years old. We are not yet sure if he is still traveling with his mother and sibling or has dispersed to live on his own, but there were markings from two other snow leopards around the collaring site that indicate he is not yet fully independent.
Khashaa was also fitted with a new GPS collar just last month and we are excited to see how these two snow leopards interact over the next year! In 2010 we had another mother and cub pair, Tenger and Zaraa, collared at the same time. Both were females, however, and the dynamic between a mother and her male cub will provide a wealth of new information.