Blog

 

An Exclusive Shirt for an Elusive Cat

Buy a limited edition snow leopard t-shirt from FLOAT until February 22 – and $8 will go directly to conservation projects for these endangered cats!


We’re excited to present the brand-new “King of the Mountain” t-shirt! Available for ONE WEEK ONLY!

unnamed-4This stunning snow leopard shirt may be even more rare than the cat it features!

Designed exclusively for the Snow Leopard Trust by conservationist apparel company FLOAT, this unique t-shirt is available now at www.float.org/snowleopard - but for one week only!

$8 will be donated to snow leopard conservation projects for every “King of the Mountain” t-shirt that’s purchased through Sunday, February 22 – so when you buy one, you won’t just look; you’ll DO good! 

The “King of the Mountain” is available in men’s and women’s cuts as well as a women’s tanktop in a variety of colors.

the stunning FLOAT t-shirt is available in men's and women's cuts and in various colors!

the stunning FLOAT t-shirt is available in men’s and women’s cuts and in various colors!

Order your t-shirt now and wear the rare “King of the Mountain” as soon as the sun comes out this spring!

Rare Snow Leopard Footage from Mongolia

Rare footage of wild snow leopards taken in the Tost mountain range in Mongolia’s South Gobi province shows a vibrant population of these endangered cats – including a mother with three cubs.


The Tost mountains are home to more than a dozen snow leopards. These cats are part of what may be the most studied snow leopard population in the world. The area has been the focal point of the Snow Leopard Trust’s pioneering long-term ecological study since 2008.

Thanks to research tools such as GPS collars and remote-sensor research cameras, Trust scientists have been able to observe Tost’s snow leopard population in unprecedented ways. They’ve found wild cubs in their dens. They’ve tracked and photographed cats as they migrated to neighboring mountain ranges across the steppe, and they’ve revealed fascinating population dynamics.

This research has helped convince Mongolian authorities to grant parts of Tost “Local Protected Area” status – a first step to saving this important snow leopard habitat for future generations.

Despite these efforts, led by the local community and our Mongolia team, Tost remains under threat: Various mining licenses had already been issued for the area before it was granted a minimum level of protection – and some of those have yet to expire.

This new snow leopard footage, taken in 2014, is further proof of the urgent need for better protection for Tost! Our Mongolia team currently helps lead an effort to upgrade the protection status of the area to “Nature Reserve”, a designation that would prevent any future mining activities

a map of the Tost mountain range in Mongolia’s South Gobi province

Breaking Barriers: Expansion of Research Activities in Pakistan

In a major step forward for snow leopard conservation in Pakistan, our local partner, the Snow Leopard Foundation, is expanding its research activities into to the tribal belt (District Diamer) of Gilgit-Baltistan province.

Diamer District is one of the seven districts of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and is bounded by Astore District in the east, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the southwest, Neelum District of Azad Kashmir in the south, the Ghizer District in the north & north-west, and the Gilgit District in the north & northeast.

Diamer is spread across 6500 km² and constitutes mostly arid mountainous area and connects GB to the rest of the country. It has historically been a strongly patriarchal society with prevalent tribal mores and a heavy influence of orthodox clergy. The literacy rate is negligible as compared to other districts. The majority of the people lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle – going to the high altitude pastures during summers and coming to the lower elevations during winters.

A challenge for conservationists

The district encompasses 77% of the total natural forest cover of the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and is owned by the community. Because of its unique culture, Diamer has historically been a challenge for the Conservation and Development Practitioner.

After many negotiations, the Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF) successfully completed human-carnivore conflict surveys followed by an extensive camera-trapping study in the Diamer district. These were the first-ever of such endeavors in the district in the conservation history of the GB.

a map of Pakistan’s Diamer District, in Gilgit Baltistan

Surveys reveal presence of snow leopards, bears, and wolves

The conflict surveys revealed the occurrence of major large carnivores including snow leopard, wolf, lynx, black bear and brown bear. Wolf and black bear were found to be particularly abundant in the district.

Losses of livestock due to predators are prevailing in the area with 1.1 animals lost per household per year, though the magnitude was found to be much less as compared to the losses of livestock due to diseases (3.8 animals per household per year).

Having evaluated the results of the conflict surveys, our Pakistani team selected Khanbari valley for a research camera survey. The team divided the valley (810km²) into 20 watersheds and set 48 camera stations, each of which was up for 30 days. The cameras captured wolf, lynx, leopard cat, fox, cape hare and stone marten. A pack of four wolves with an alpha male was captured for the first time.

a pack of wolves in Pakistan's Diamer District

a pack of wolves in Pakistan’s Diamer District

Snow leopard family on film

The rugged mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan are strongholds of several ungulate species. However, little is known about their ecology and abundance because of remoteness and lack of resources to conduct robust scientific studies.

Members of SLF's research team in Khunjerab National Park

Members of SLF’s research team in Khunjerab National Park

Poaching/hunting, habitat degradation, increasing livestock, and disease transmission by livestock are the major threats. Proper ungulate monitoring is a prerequisite to identify population dynamics for effective conservation.

Khunjerab National Park (KNP), to the north of Diamer, covers 4455km² and supports a diverse array of wildlife species including: Himalayan ibex, snow leopard, blue sheep, brown bear, wolf, fox, stone marten, weasel, golden eagle, snow cock, cape hare and Marco Polo sheep. The Park is also providing forage to approximately 3000 livestock.

During a recent ungulate survey in the park, our team was in for a special treat! They came across a snow leopard family – a mother with three cubs! With their mobile phones and pocket cameras, the team managed to take some footage of the cats, before moving on to count ibex. You can watch the video below!

The surveys yielded 420 ibex counts in the park. Park staff and university students were trained in the ‘Double Observer Survey’ method as well as GPS handling, map reading, data format filling, spotting scope and binocular handling.

Looking Ahead: The Future of our Long-Term Snow Leopard Study in Mongolia

Initiated in 2008, the Snow Leopard Trust’s long-term comprehensive ecological study of snow leopards addresses critical gaps in knowledge ranging from spatial and trophic ecology to basic population parameters such as predation patterns and foraging strategies, birth and mortality rates, and juvenile dispersal.

While focusing on the snow leopard, the research also seeks to illuminate the relationships between wildlife, livestock, humans, and abiotic factors.

Lasya, one of the female snow leopards we've been tracking

Lasya, a female snow leopard living in Tost, Mongolia, wearing a GPS collar.

To date, the project has been very successful with 19 snow leopards being fitted with GPS collars as well as collection of other important information on the ecology of the Tost ecosystem.

In 2015, we plan to conduct an 8-week research camera session to continue to monitor snow leopard population dynamics (abundance, survival, recruitment) within the Tost mountain range.

Tost's snow leopards are being monitored with remote-sensor research cameras

Tost’s snow leopards are being monitored with remote-sensor research cameras

Research cameras will also help target trapping and collaring sites of known and new individuals. The cameras study in Tost will be implemented mid-July to mid-September.

This summer we also hope to conduct camera surveys  in Nemegt and other neighboring mountains to expand the study and learn more about snow leopards on a larger scale. We will also continue to collaborate with parks personnel to increase our capacity of the camera study.

Coral Improvements

In 2013, we secured funding from the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) for a study on livestock losses at corrals and how to reduce such losses. The study consists of three parts:

  • a survey of livestock losses and physical characteristics of the corrals
  • a survey of herder attitudes towards snow leopards and wolves
  • an experiment to test fences as a method to reduce losses at corrals.

We completed a lot of the initial surveys on livestock losses and attitude assessments along with a workshop to introduce the fencing experiment to the herders in 2014, along with the actual construction of the fences themselves.

a fence can make a huge difference

Fences designed to keep predators out are being tested. First results are expected this year

In 2015, we will focus on monitoring of the fencing experiment and determine how well the fences perform and look forward to updating you with the results.

Studies on Livestock Grazing, Disease

This spring, we plan to initiate a study on livestock grazing and its effect on mountain ecosystems where factors such as grazing pressure, habitat degradation, and factors affecting variation in forage availability will be important.

Another objective for 2015 is to continue with the analysis from our first-ever snow leopard disease survey using blood samples collected from wild snow leopards in Tost.

This groundbreaking research was made possible with support from the Whitley Fund for Nature and the Helsinki Zoo along with the Swedish Veterinary Institute and will provide science’s first glimpse into snow leopard exposure to common feline pathogens, and lay the foundation for a novel disease monitoring system.

In 2013, Researcher Marc Wiseman completed the initial screening of snow leopard samples collected in 2008-2012 at the Veterinary Institute in Sweden (SVA).

In 2014, Researcher Carol Esson started the screening of samples from other organisms of the ecosystem (rodents, goats, dogs, flees, and ticks) collected in 2012 and 2013. This work was and will continue to be done at the One Health lab at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Carol will complement the data collected in 2012 and 2013 with a survey on human health and livestock to increase our understanding of diseases among domestic animals and diseases that transmit between wildlife and human (zoonosis). The results from these screenings and surveys will be important for developing a monitoring program for diseases in high altitude landscapes of south-central Asia that can be implemented in all focal landscapes that the Trust works in. It would be very good from a logistical point of view if this monitoring system could also be based on scats rather than solely on blood samples.

This will be an exciting year for our long-term study and we look forward to keeping you posted with our endeavors including any changes to our field schedule and plans.

A Great End to 2014 Fuels Plans for 2015

2015 has been dubbed the “Year of the Snow Leopard” by the 12 range countries. For the Snow Leopard Trust, it will be a year full of exciting challenges – and thanks to your outstanding support in 2014, we’re hitting the ground rolling!


This past fall season, you have set records in donations, adoptions and purchases for the benefit of snow leopard conservation!

On GivingTuesday, you helped us unlock a match, for a total of over $40,000 in donations – the largest ever single-day total in our history.

Then, you kept the momentum going and contributed to a total of more than $100,000 in online donations and sales for December; the first time we’ve ever reached this milestone.

These funds will allow us to get to work on some of our most ambitious projects in 2015:

wild snow leopard in India

a wild snow leopard surveying its habitat in Spiti, India. Photo by NCF India / SLT

In India, we’re planning the country’s first ever GPS collaring of snow leopards.

In partnership with the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department and NCF India, our team is currently testing equipment in the field; making sure everything is planned perfectly for this exciting, pioneering project.

The Indian study will complement our ongoing long-term snow leopard study in Mongolia’s South Gobi – a very different habitat from that of the Indian Himalayas.

Led by country director Kuban Jumabai uluu, our team in the Kyrgyz Republic will continue its groundbreaking work on the country’s largest-ever snow leopard population study, surveying the vast, remote Sarychat-Ertash Nature Reserve with research cameras – purchased thanks to your amazing generosity on Giving Tuesday!

a snow leopard family in Kyrgyzstan

a snow leopard family in Kyrgyzstan

The team’s previous efforts have already produced a series of stunning photos. But more importantly, as the dataset grows and grows, Kuban and his team can start to analyze and draw conclusions on the area’s cat population – and we’re eagerly awaiting the results!

In Mongolia, we’re planning to expand highly successful grassroots community conservation initiatives such as Snow Leopard Enterprises, our flagship handicraft program that just reached $1 million in sales last year. The same program will also be launched in India in the coming year – another step forward in its development.

We’ll also continue to grow the livestock insurance program, which compensates herders for livestock lost to snow leopard predation.

On the international level, your support will allow us to continue to play a leadership role in the Global Snow Leopard Forum and on the path to realizing the dream of securing 20 snow leopard landscapes by 2020, as outlined in the Bishkek Declaration.

In particular, we’re supporting the salaries of key members of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Plan; program director, Keshav Varma, and program officer, Koustubh Sharma.

Thanks to the great end-of-year results, we’ll also be able to help facilitate a steering committee meeting in the spring of 2015, where management plans for the protection of these snow leopard landscapes will be discussed.