International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

News From The Field: Results of a Long-term Snow Leopard Study

Wild cats can’t be saved without knowing what they need to survive in their natural habitat. What kind of habitat do they use? What are their activity patterns & social organizations? Without data collected by field biologists, conservation programs can’t be put in place. To further our educational efforts, we are posting regular Monday summaries of a paper written by wild cat field biologists, which briefly outlines their findings.

Snow leopard Panthera uncia are under threat across their range and require urgent conservation actions based on sound science. However, their remote habitat and cryptic nature make them inherently difficult to study and past attempts have provided insufficient information upon which to base effective conservation. Further, there has been no statisically reliable and cost effrective method available to monitor snow leopard populations, focus conservation effort on key populations, or asses conservation impacts.

To address these multiple information needs, The Snow Leopard Trust, The Snow Leopard Conservation Fund, and Panthera launched an ambitious long-term study in Mongolia’s South Gobi province in 2008. To date, 10 snow leopards have been fitted with GPS-satellite collars to provide information on basic snow leopard ecology. Using 2,442 locations we calculated MCP home ranges of 150-938 sq. km, with substantial overlap between individuals. Exploratory movements outside typical snow leopard habitat have been observed. Trials of camera trapping, fecal genetics and occupancy modeling have been completed. Each method exhibits promise, and limitations, as potential monitoring tools for this elusive species.

Tom McCarthy, Kim Murray, Koustubh Sharma, Orjan Johansson

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group Cat News newsletter

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