A new snow leopard has been fitted with a GPS tracking collar in the South Gobi region of Mongolia! As part of our long-term ecological study, we will follow this cats movements for the next year. Field researcher, Örjan Johansson, shares the experience of meeting his 16th wild snow leopard:
Mood in camp got instantly better when the siren started and the LED under “Trap alarm” lit up early evening. We rushed to the ATVs and got to the snare about 50 minutes after it had been triggered. I can’t describe the relief when I looked over a hill and saw a snow leopard lying on the other side. It was extremely windy and he had not heard us coming. The cat crawled back against the wall and lied down looking at us.
We went up to about ten meters from him and except for his eyes, he didn’t move a whisker. I didn’t want to shoot because the wind was coming from the side and the darts can easily fly more than a meter of course in such strong wind. So I took a few steps toward the cat, when I was about seven meters from him he barred all his teeth in a huge grin, saying “that is close enough”, still lying down. So I backed one step and he calmed down again and went back to just glaring at me. Had to wait for the wind to calm down for a second and then shot. We left the site and when we came back a few minutes later the cat was asleep in the same position.
Except for the wind the collaring was uneventful. It is quite difficult to gather all measurements, collect all samples and monitor vital signs when you have to put rocks on all the equipment to keep it from flying away. The cat is a new male (obviously), he weighed a little more than 44 kg and we think that he is 3-4 years old. It will be interesting to see if he is the new dominant male here. Shonkhor, the old dominant male in this range, died in summer 2011.
Now, we are eagerly waiting for the females. Pretty much the same as a lot of other guys on a Friday evening…
Örjan Johansson is a Ph.D. student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). He is the field scientist in our Long Term Ecological Study about snow leopards in South Gobi, Mongolia. Örjan’s groundbreaking research is generously supported by Nordens Ark Zoo in Bohuslän, Sweden, and by Kolmården Zoo, in Norrköping, Sweden.
This study is a joint project of PANTHERA, Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation in cooperation with the Mongolia Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, and the Mongolia Academy of Sciences.