The Snow Leopard Trust is deeply saddened about the passing of Peter Matthiessen.
We’re excited to be teaming up with conservationist apparel company FLOAT and offer you a chance to help save snow leopards buy purchasing an amazing t-shirt, exclusively designed by FLOAT for the Snow Leopard Trust.
Here’s a sneak peak at the gorgeous t-shirt, which will be available from Monday, April 7, at www.float.org. For every t-shirt sold between April 7 and 13, $8 will be donated to snow leopard conservation.
Remote-sensor cameras have become a invaluable research tool to monitor wildlife populations. They’re also offering us more and more glimpses into the lives of the elusive snow leopard; bringing the mysterious cat out of the shadows.
Last fall, you helped us fund 30 such cameras for a crucial snow leopard study in Kyrgyzstan. We’ve shared the first pictures they’ve captured earlier this year. Now, our Kyrgyz program director, Kuban Jumabai Uluu, has sent a second batch of photos – and they are breathtaking! Enjoy!
Park rangers in protected areas are a key ally in the fight to better understand and protect the endangered snow leopard. In Mongolia, our local team is training these rangers on how to use monitoring techniques such as surveys, GPS and research cameras.
Mongolia’s Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park (GGNP) is one of the largest protected areas of the Gobi region. The park is crucial for the conservation of snow leopards and their prey in this region. Park staff at GGNP is dedicated and wants to help better understand and protect these endangered cats. However, rangers are lacking information they need about the snow leopards and have limited skills and experience in using techniques such as surveys, or tools like GPS and cameras. To address these needs, our Mongolia team is conducting ranger training workshops focused on building capacity for wildlife monitoring within the GGNP areas.
Pujii Lkhagvajav, the Trust’s Research and Monitoring Manager in Mongolia, led the most recent training this past February. “36 rangers and park staff attended the workshop. That’s three dozen allies who will support our work in the future!”
After an introduction to snow leopard and their biology, participants learned the ins and outs of different wildlife monitoring techniques – from low-tech approaches like using printed forms to record snow leopard signs and presence of prey, to more sophisticated tools such as GPS devices to navigate and map locations. Then, Puji explained how photos from research cameras can be used to monitor cat populations. “The participants enjoyed the challenge of identifying individual cats by their fur pattern”, she says. Much like a human fingerprint, a snow leopard’s spots are unique. Scientists use the fur pattern to identify cats in research camera photos – a first step to estimating the total population.
Estimating populations – with cameras and binoculars
For example, a study deploying 20 research cameras in a part of Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park for a month may yield photos of 5 different cats. Then, a couple of weeks later, the same area is surveyed once more; again using 20 cameras for the duration of a month.
If the new photos show the same five cats, but no others, there’s a good chance the total population in that area is close to five. However, if all the cats identified in the second study are unknown, we’re most likely looking at a significantly larger population.
While the process is infinitely more complicated than that, the basic principle struck a chord with park staff. “The rangers are eager to know how many cats there are in the park“, Puji says.
Research cameras are one important tool to monitor wildlife populations – but they’re not the only method our teams use. “We can’t always find the cats, but we do see signs of them. Counting and mapping snow leopard signs such as pug marks is a very effective approach”, Puji explains.
One important indicator for a healthy cat population is the abundance of prey animals like the blue sheep. Fortunately, these ungulates are easier to spot and count. Population estimates are made using the so-called double-observer method, where two observers search for and count animals simultaneously while ensuring that they do not cue each other on the locations of the animals. “During the training, we took participants into the field, where they could practice counting animals and animal signs, recording the data in survey forms and mapping the locations with GPS”, Puji says.
Lack of tools needs to be addressed
While the training was a success, there are challenges that still need to be addressed – including a lack of survey tools for park staff. “GPS and binoculars are most important tools for rangers. Without these tools, they can’t see animals or record their locations properly”, Puji explains. “Every ranger patrols their responsible areas twice a month, but right now, there aren’t enough GPS units or binoculars, so less than half of them can collect wildlife data on their patrols.”
We would like to thank GGNP director Bayanmonkh and wildlife specialist Narangarav Bayasgalan for their tremendous support and assistance with this training, which was made possible by the generosity of the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and the Whitley Fund for Nature.
Have you heard people claim that “no one was too small to make a difference” too many times to still believe it? Allow us to introduce you to Liam, the five-year-old boy who’ll rekindle your faith in the power of each of us!
Last week, we received an email from Liam – a devoted snow leopard supporter. Liam wrote to tell us about his 5th birthday party — and the patch he’d received when he joined Team Snow Leopard, our group of monthly donors (his mother took dictation, but the words are clearly his):
“I love my badge from the Team Snow Leopard. My mom put it on my black dress shirt so I can wear it everywhere. I also got some spy gear, 2 sets of walkie talkies (short and long range) and an infra-red motion detector alarm to help me catch poachers when my friends and I play animal rescue.”
His friend, Oscar (also aged 5), made him a special book about snow leopards for his birthday– the first page of which you can see above.
Liam clearly loves snow leopards. And he wants to protect snow leopards — for real, as well as pretend. That’s why he uses his allowance to protect snow leopards through Team Snow Leopard – making monthly donations to protect the cats he loves so well.
You can follow the lead of this pint-sized (but very savvy) snow leopard enthusiast by joining Team Snow Leopard today.
Your monthly support is a great help to the cats – and it’s convenient for you:
- You’ll know that you’re doing something to help these cats each and every month – providing the steady support that will keep them safe.
- The small, easy, payments can fit perfectly into your monthly budget. And at the same time, the steady support helps the Trust better manage its budget.
- With low administrative overhead, more of your donation goes to the strong science and community projects you care about.
You may not have a set of walkie talkies for catching poachers, but you can protect the cats from real threats — just like Liam. Please join Team Snow Leopard today!