The Snow Leopard Trust has analyzed the data from Bayad’s collar and found that she traversed a 1,563 square kilometer area, splitting her time between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the map above, Bayad’s movements are the little black dots, and the red line is the border between countries.
Past convensional VHF radio collars used in previous snow leopard studies lacked the technology to record and store locations, so researchers had to follow radio signals on foot through the mountains as best they could. Radio receivers have a typical range of just a few kilometers and require collars to be nearly in line-of-sight. Cats would often “disappear” and then reappear, and researchers had to guess where they were in-between.
Bayad’s collar stored hundreds of GPS locations for the entire 14 months she wore it. The data from the collar makes it clear that Bayad, and other snow leopards who also journey from Pakistan into Afghanistan, are vulnerable to poachers in Afghanistan. Hunting snow leopards in Afghanistan has been outlawed since 2002. Still, pelts fetch upwards of $1,500 and impovrished Afghanis often break poaching laws. Approximately 100-220 snow leopards remain on Afghanistan, and 300-400 in Pakistan.
The information gained from Bayad’s collar will help researchers implement more effective conservation strategies, and underscores the critical need for transboundary protected areas to conserve snow leopards.