Category Archives:
Research

 

Welcome back, Devekh

Breaking news from our base camp in South Gobi! Field scientist Örjan Johansson called in earlier this week to report that he had successfully fitted a new GPS collar on Devekh, a large male snow leopard we had previously been following for a few months back in 2010, before his original collar dropped off. (more…)

Belling the Cat: Why Collars are Crucial

Find out why tracking snow leopards with GPS collars is an indispensable part of our efforts to save them – and how we try to minimize the impact the collaring has on the cats. (more…)

Crying Wolf?

How real are people’s perceptions of threats snow leopards and wolves pose to livestock?

 

A Snow Leopard in the Sun

Pretty Predator (Photo by Kulbhushan Suryawanshi)

Conflicts between snow leopards and herders are one of the major threats the cats are facing. But how do herding communities who live with snow leopards perceive the threat these cats and other predators like wolves pose to their livestock? And how closely do these perceptions reflect actual livestock losses? As our research team has discovered, these two sides of the same coin can sometimes be at considerable odds – with wolves getting the brunt of negative prejudice. (more…)

The James Bond Snow Leopard

photo courtesy Tiffany and Dave

photo courtesy Tiffany and Dave

Orjan is a Swedish PhD student who works at the base camp of our long-term research project in Mongolia. These are his adventures…

It’s been a rough period in camp. After several long days in field, I decided to take a day off. I was just going to do a little bit of work in the morning, turned out that I spent the whole day servicing the bikes, sorting out equipment, chopping wood, cleaning the ger, doing some computer work and repairing a snare that a goat had stepped in.

The day after, I decided to finish the scouting of my next collaring area. Each day I go there, I drive 100-120 km with the bike, and spend several hours hiking and deploying cameras. These bike tracks and mountains take their toll on my soft body and each evening I find a new place that hurts. Well, two days ago I finished the scouting. As I turned into the valley on my way back to camp I met a herd of cows!

I have no idea what on earth cows are doing in a desert, nor do I know what they eat here. I do know that the cows had trampled down four of my snares on their way through the valley. I like cows, they are pretty funny animals. Though it’s a lot of work to repair four snares!

The door on a ger is quite low and to pass one has to crouch. As I opened my door and bent down a scorpion that had lurched on top of the door fell down in front of my head…

Inside the ger was a very happy cat (Friday, the camp cat), she had made a nice cat door by pushing down one of the roof-windows so that it smashed against the floor. Friday seems to think of this as a big improvement since she can go in and out as she wants. She seems quite oblivious to the fact that there was shattered glass all over the ger and that it gets cold at night now.

Except for seven days when Zara McDonald was here I have been alone since early September. The loneliness together with all the above, an aching body, and no snow leopard activity has dampened my spirit a bit. So the morning after, when I went out to repair the snares that the cows had trampled down, you can imagine what it felt like to see leopard pugmarks.

It’s hard to track in the gravel, but it seemed to be two leopards (or the same individual passing by two times). I got curious and decided to check the other snares in the

direction which the leopard(s) traveled.

In all, they had passed four active snares. At one site there were pugmarks on either side of the snare, so the leopard must have walked over it. Irritating, but that happens and there’s nothing to do about it. On the other three snares, the leopard had stepped on the cable and just about missed the trigger…

What are the odds for that? That must be some sort of “James Bond snow leopard” (the Sean Connery or possibly Daniel Craig version), dodging all my snares. Some of it is bad luck and some is because I have tried setting snares at scent marks. I am not sure exactly how close to the rocks the leopards place their paws when they sniff the rocks. Apparently they are about five centimeters further away than I had anticipated…

In a way, that was precisely what I needed. First I considered packing up and going home but then I got pissed, added three Metallica albums to my MP3 player and started repairing and rebuilding snares. I don’t think they will be as easy to dodge next time, Mr. (or Mrs.) Bond…