Ph.D. Candidate Orjan sends an update from the Snow Leopard Trust base camp located in Mongolia:
One of the very rare thunderstorms raged here one night and lightning struck close to our surveillance system [what we use to check if a snow leopard is in the area]. We had not thought about making the system lightning proof and some of the very sensitive components designed to detect very weak electric pulses suddenly got overloaded by the electrical discharge. I tried to repair it but must admit that my knowledge in this field ends at ‘something smells burnt in this box’.
Back to climbing the mountain for signal checks…
This time of year Friday, the resident housecat, usually leaves the ger in the evening to hunt hamsters. She had been gone for a whole day when I went towards the mountain on the 23:00 signal check. Couple hundred meters from camp, just where we start to climb the mountain I saw two eyes looking at me. I got really happy, having found Friday since I was a little worried that she had been gone so long. “There you are Friday, come here now” I exclaimed in a friendly voice. The animal simply looked at me. I walked over to her in a casual way, sometimes she decides to play ‘chase the cat’ if she senses that I’m trying to catch her. As I closed in I noticed that it was quite far between the eyes, didn’t look quite like Friday. Well, I was heading that direction anyways so I kept walking and again said “come here now”. As I got even closer the animal moved a little and I started doubting that this could be Friday, seemed way too big, though it is hard to estimate both distances and size in dark. Soon after that, it came trotting across the valley and passed me, then I saw that it was a snow leopard. The snow leopard climbed a hilll on the side where I came from and sat down to look at me. Must have got confused when I walked casually to it, calling in a friendly voice now and then.
They say that a human must have access to the basic needs such as sleep, shelter, food and water before other things matter. It’s probably true because even though it is a great experience to see the cats my main thought was “get out of my way so I can get up on the mountain and back to bed”.
45 minutes later we learned that Anu was 200 meters on the other side of camp. I suppose that it was her that I saw. Not sure why she lingered so long around my camp and why the location was so close to the toilet… but I’m going to be wary whenever I need to visit the toilet. Just in case.