All of us have been waiting in quiet anticipation to hear news from Orjan, not knowing when another snow leopard would be captured, collared and released. Perhaps you too have joined us in the silent hope that it would be a female—after all, we already have numerous males that we are tracking, but a female has yet to be tracked successfully in the Tost Mountains. Although we can’t share that news with you (yet), we are excited to announce that we collared another male on the 25th of February 2010. The snow leopard was captured, collared and released safely, and it has left us all intrigued about the number of males that are thriving in this landscape, overlapping their movement patterns within the 3500 km2 study site. Temporarily named M7 (light blue on the map), this male is a large cat and the 8th to join our GPS radio collar study. He weighs 39.5 kg, though lacks any scars on his face, giving an indication that he is a big, yet possibly young snow leopard. These scars usually testify to the battles that a cat may have fought over the years in order to carve or maintain a territory against existing territorial individuals. In the initial three days, M7 has seemed to utilize the eastern portion of what we refer to as Aztai’s home range.
Interestingly enough, this same night, on the 25th of February, Aztai (red) was caught again just 300-400 meters from where M7 was caught. Since his collar is still new, it was checked for any wear-and-tear and given that it was in good shape, the collar was kept on him. Aztai was released after Orjan took measurements, assessed his overall well-being and weighed him. He scored the highest of the three occasions that we have been able to weigh him: 36.5kg in August 2008, 42kg in June 2009, and 45kg on this February capture. Perhaps the biggest cat to be captured in the wild for research! That said, a loose cluster of GPS locations recorded up until the previous morning of 24th could possibly justify his increased weight. He seems to have been on a kill, and thus may be very heavy from feeding! Since the cluster is not very far from our base camp, and is accessible, we hope that Orjan will soon be able to visit the site to ground truth the location and answer questions about if it was a kill, and if so, what he was feeding on.
Based on the nearly 200 locations we have from Shonkhor, he seems to have settled himself into his home range which extends the length of the region between the Toson Bumba and Tost Mountains. He does continue to make periodic (and somewhat trademark) excursions from Toson Bumba to the Tost region, just about touching Aztai’s home range and then heading back into what appears to be the center of his home range.
We look forward to seeing how active Orjan’s next few weeks turn out to be as we enter into March!