Rare photo shows endangered snow leopard in the wild

A trap camera took this rare photo of a snow leopard.


By Wildlife Conservation Society

The Wildlife Conservation Society released two photos Thursday of a snow leopard, an endangered cat that lives in the high mountains of Central Asia.These photos were taken by a trap camera in Sast Valley in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor and sent to my colleague Dan Vergano,who wanted to share them with the pet community. Thank you, Dan. We’ll do more on wild cats and wolves in upcoming blogs.

WCS researchers are conducting ongoing wildlife surveys in this remote area with the goal of establishing a protected area. They found this endangered cat willing to strike a pose or two.

Trap cameras are placed in an animal’s habitat and are automatically triggered to go off when an animal goes by, allowing researchers to take photos without being nearby.

Snow leopards are on The World Conservation Union’s Red list of Endangered Species, the same endangered status given to the panda and tiger. Snow leopards are elusive creatures. Sightings are rare, partly because of how well they blend into the landscape. They weigh about 75-120 pounds (roughly seven to eight times the weight of a house cat and one-seventh to one-eighth the size of a tiger). They have large paws that allow them to jump up to 50 feet. More information about the cats and where they roam can be found at the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Snow Leopard Trust websites.

Peter Matthiessen writes about a magical journey he took on foot – what else? – in the rugged mountains of northwest Nepal with a wildlife biologist to look for these near-mythical creatures in The Snow Leopard.


Tiger, snow leopard numbers dip

SHYAM BHATTA/RAMESH KUMAR POUDEL KATHMANDU/CHITWAN, July 27: The tiger census conducted this year has put the total number of adult tigers in Nepal at 121.

Making public the report of the census carried out from November 19, 2008, to March 7, 2009, in 14 districts on Monday, the government said the tiger population slightly declined from 2003 when their number was 123. Similarly, the number of snow leopards has been estimated to have declined in between 300 and 400, while previously their number was estimated to be in between 400 and 500.

The counting of tigers was done using ´capture´ and ´recapture´ method that uses snaps taken by automatic cameras placed at certain places. The stripes of tigers, which never match with another tiger, caught in the camera are then analyzed to avoid repetition in counting.

Chitwan has 91, Bardiya 18, Shuklafanta eight and Parsa four tigers according to the census which found tigers even outside conservation areas in some districts.

The dwindling number of tigers and snow leopards should be taken with due gravity, says Deputy Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Megh Bahadur Pandey. Conservationists have been on a high alert ever since the Sariska National Park in Rajasthan, India, announced that it lost all its tigers two years ago.

The census carried out using employees of the government, the department, National Nature Conservation Trust and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal and 300 automatic cameras cost around US $360,000 (around Rs 26.1 million).

The counting of snow leopards was done in the mountainous region from Ganesh Himal to Rolwaling, Sagarmatha, Makalu Varun and Kanchanjungha with the financial help from WWF America, England and Finland. Published on 2009-07-27 21:01:01 http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=7932

Mongolian Wildlife to be Recorded on Film

Written by Kirril Shields
Friday, October 17, 2008
MONGOLIAN wildlife will soon be captured, on camera that is. A Wildlife Picture Index programme is set to begin in January of 2009, aiming to ‘camera trap’ Mongolian mammal and bird species. The program intends to help scientists gain an understanding of population figures and biodiversity across an array of environments, from desert, to steppe, to the rugged and snow-capped mountains of the taiga.

While the WPI was trialled on a small scale in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sapo National Park, Liberia, and to a lesser degree in other locations around the world, it will be used for the first time on a large scale to record Mongolian wildlife. “This is a great step for Mongolia,” says Eleanor Monks of the Zoological Society of London. “It gives us the opportunity to monitor data deficient species which are rarely seen by the public eye.”
In addition to catching a glimpse of rare and elusive animals such as the Gobi bear, the snow leopard, or the long-eared jerboa, zoologists and scientists are hoping to discover new species of mammals and birds.
The WPI program will also provide insight into a species’ habits -including nocturnal activity- build an understanding of how these animals live, and reveal the impact mining and deforestation have on species’ populations.

According to the team establishing Mongolia’s WPI program, the use of photographic imagery is an effective way of enthusing and educating the public about wildlife by producing vivid colour pictures of rare or, as yet, undiscovered animals.

The camera trapping will be implemented by the Zoological Society of London (through the Steppe Forward Programme), the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Mongolian Academy of Science.

According to Cambridge University, the benefits of camera trapping are that it “offers a non-obtrusive, low cost, verifiable, simple and effective means of meeting objectives across disparate sites.” The objectives, they continue, include “monitoring trends in the diversity, abundance, and distribution of a broad range of terrestrial mammals and birds, including nocturnal, rare and elusive animals.”

The majority of funds for the project’s first year have been supplied by the World Bank. The program will employ roughly six foreign scientists, including two project leaders, four young Mongolian scientists, two Mongolian student interns, and as many as sixty herdsmen from the aimags where the cameras will be placed.
Led by Dr. Jonathan Baillie from ZSL (based at London’s Regent Park Zoo), Monks and Dr. Amanda Fine from the Mongolian office of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the program will monitor six sites around the country: three in central and southern Mongolia, three others far to the west of Ulaanbaatar.

Mongolia, according to the report Silent Steppe: The Illegal Wildlife Trade Crisis in Mongolia, has a “flourishing illegal and wildlife trade, now estimated to be worth more than US$ 100 million annually.” Add to this the depletion of forests and the impact mining companies can have on the environment, and the future of Mongolia’s rare and depleted species may be grim. In 2006, for example, the population of red deer in Mongolia was said to have declined by 92 percent over the last 18 years.

In 2006, Baille enumerated some of the environmental problems Mongolia currently faces. “Mongolia was once a refuge for Central Asia’s mammals, but the Mongolian steppe is now being silently cleared of its wildlife. Even the marmot, a large rodent, is estimated to have declined 75 percent over the past 12 years, due to hunting.”
Others seem to agree. “Mongolia’s growing population and changing lifestyles are intensifying pressures on the country’s fragile ecosystems,” a World Bank report states. “Overgrazing is degrading significant areas and displacing wildlife from its habitat. Pollution from industrial and urban growth is negatively affecting environmental quality. Moreover, hampering progress in the management of and protection of the environment is a conspicuous lack of human and financial resources.”

The Wildlife Picture Index hopes to reverse some of these trends. Implementing the program, according to ZSL, means that “robust monitoring will take place so that the scope and severity of the problem can be defined, communicated and defended.” The society hopes this project will in turn lead to public and government awareness initiatives, launched both by Mongolia and the world at large.