A research team from the Snow Leopard Trust has successfully equipped an eight-year old female snow leopard with a GPS collar in Mongolia’s Tost Nature Reserve this month. The cat, who’s been given the name ‘Dagina’, will be tracked for the next 18 months as part of the conservation organization’s ongoing long-term study of snow leopard ecology. She joins three other snow leopards who had been collared earlier this year in the same region.
“Dagina is special. She is a snow leopard we already know quite well”, says study leader Örjan Johansson. “The first time we saw her on a picture, in 2009, she was a two-month old cub, following her mother, Agnes. In 2012, we managed to put a GPS collar on her for the first time, which allowed us to track her for a year while she settled into her new home range. Now, we’ll get another glimpse into her life – this time as an older cat.”
The team is hoping to gain insights into snow leopard reproduction from Dagina. “We don’t know for certain at what age wild snow leopards first have cubs, and we know even less about how long the breeding age lasts”, Örjan explains. “Dagina could give us some novel insights into these questions, which are critical for our understanding of the cat’s conservation status and future.”
Usually, when researchers observe a female snow leopard with cubs, they can’t determine her exact age. But Dagina’s life has been well-documented in this unprecedented long-term study. We know her age, and we know she’s capable of breeding – she had her first cub when she was three years old.
“We’ll see if she has cubs again next spring. Or perhaps she’s too old now to reproduce? We don’t know, and that’s why we are so excited to be tracking her again”, Örjan says.
Dagina will wear her collar for approximately 18 months, until the early summer of 2019.
This work is a result of the ongoing long-term ecological study on snow leopards in Mongolia’s South Gobi province that’s been conducted by the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation, Snow Leopard Trust, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences since 2008. The conservation organization Panthera helped launch the study and was a partner until 2012.
We are thankful to the Ministry for Environment and Green Development, Government of Mongolia, the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences for partnering with us in this research endeavor.
Partnership Funding by Fondation Segré, managed by the Whitley Fund for Nature, has helped tremendously with this work.
We are equally thankful to the Woodland Park Zoo, Cat Life Foundation, Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Kolmarden Zoo, Nysether Family Foundation, Twycross Zoo and all other donors and supporters.
Special thanks go to all staff and volunteers who aided in the work.