Anu, fittingly named after a warrior princess from Mongolian folklore, was born in spring 2009. Her mother, Inquisitive, held a territory in the central parts of Tost, just south of our Base Camp. We received the first photos of Anu and her sibling in summer 2010. Unfortunately, we lost detection of Inquisitive in camera-trap photographs two year after Anu’s birth, and assume that she disappeared sometime between summer 2010 and 2011.
In spring 2011 we GPS-collared Anu for the first time at the age of 2 years. Anu had likely just separated from her mother at this time and was found in the North Canyon, which we believe is part of her natal range. Throughout the following year, she roamed over a large portion of Tost, presumably looking for a vacant territory to settle down. In April 2012 she settled in the southern portion of her natal range. There she gave birth at age three to her first litter, consisting of only a single male cub.In late autumn 2012 she shifted range eastward and claimed a territory in what used to be the home range of another female cat—Khashaa. Anu has remained in this area ever since.
By 2014, Anu was ready to give motherhood another go, and gave birth to a litter of three cubs. Sadly, the entire litter was lost soon after their birth. But being the resilient snow leopard mother she is, Anu gave birth to another litter of three cubs just one year later. In 2016 we captured many photographs of Anu and two large cubs from her 2015 litter. Both of these cubs are females—one was collared in 2018 and received the ID F12, and the other was nicknamed Antoine by our field team. In 2019, both F12 and Antoine were photographed together with cubs—three belonging to F12 and one belonging to Antoine. Our data suggests that they both gave birth for the first time at the age of four years. F12 has since claimed Anu’s natal range as her own territory while Antoine appears to have settled far out to the western edge of Tost.
In 2017 Anu became a mother for the fourth time, this time to a litter of two cubs. In autumn 2018 we had the great fortune to collar both Anu and one of her cubs, F11, as they were still travelling together. This was an exciting, rare feat that allowed us to document how cubs separate from their mothers.
Interestingly, we captured F11 as she and Anu patrolled the outskirts of their territory, which overlaps slightly with F12’s territory. And then another stroke of luck happened—we collared both F11 and F12 in the same canyon on the same night. As they woke from the sedation, they shared an ibex that Anu had killed. Even though F12 must have left Anu about a year and a half years earlier, she was still allowed to eat from the kill and the three cats remained together for almost two days. F11 remains in her natal range to date, though she has made several exploratory forays outside of it, presumably looking for a vacant territory to settle in. Until she finds one, it appears as if F11 will stay in the safe area defended by her mother.
Just last year, Anu gave birth to her fifth litter, this time consisting of at least three cubs. Talk about a supermom! The father is likely Uulin Eezen (M12) as they were together for three days during the mating season. Anu was 10 years old when she gave birth to her latest litter, making her and Dagina the world’s oldest-known reproducing female snow leopards. We have faith that Anu will successfully raise this litter as she is now quite the seasoned professional and one tough snow leopard mom. At the age of two and a half, Anu single-handedly killed a couple of adult camels. We have captured her for collaring three times, and on each occasion she has recovered rapidly and sat up after 20-30 minutes, seemingly fighting off the sedation drugs. Of all the cats we have handled, she is the only one that recovers so rapidly. We are thrilled to continue following Anu and documenting her life story. She is a fascinating cat and has taught us a great deal of knowledge about snow leopard ecology and behavior—knowledge that is of utmost importance to conserve this species.
Over 70 foundations, zoos, and corporate partners, and hundreds of individual donors, have made it possible to run our long-term study and collar snow leopards over the past decade—for a full list please visit www.snowleopard.org/decade.
The Snow Leopard Trust’s long-term snow leopard study in Mongolia is in collaboration with the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (SLCF), the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), the Mongolian Ministry of Environment & Tourism, and the Mongolia Academy of Science.