Follow The Cats
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.
This summer, our research team set a number of motion sensing cameras near our base camp in the South Gobi region of Mongolia. In August, just 6 kilometers from our camp site, five snow leopards were photographed travelling together! Such a large number of snow leopards have never been photographed before, and researchers hypothesize that this may be a mother and her four cubs!
With great sadness, we report that Shonkhor, a snow leopard we have been following since April, 2009 in our long-term ecological study, has passed away. His last GPS update in early August indicated something was wrong, and our field staff rushed to the scene. While it appears Shonkhor died of natural causes, we have sent a veterinarian to investigate further. We hope to have more information soon.
Shonkhor was a cat that you could symbolically adopt through our Snow Leopard Adoption program. We will be removing his name soon, and encourage those interested to make an adoption in memory of Shokhor to help fund the study and protection of wild snow leopards like him.
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!