Along with scientists from the Snow Leopard Trust, Panthera’s wild cat researchers have just successfully collared our twelfth snow leopard in the Tost Mountains of South Gobi, Mongolia. With the collaring of this female cat, the South Gobi team is now tracking twice the number of cats ever monitored in any previous study of snow leopards.
This most recent snow leopard, temporarily named F4 until the team chooses a name, is a female cat weighing 81 pounds. The GPS-satellite collar she was fitted with will allow our scientists to track her movements for the next 20 months, giving insight to the information needed to save the elusive snow leopard from extinction. There are believed to be between just 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards remaining in the wild today.
The collaring of “F4” is particularly exciting because our researchers believe she is the mother of another nearly grown female that was fitted with a collar just a few months ago. The team has determined that F4 is still travelling with her cub, so this will be the first time our scientists are able to learn how snow leopards rear their cubs and prepare them to leave home to establish their own territory.
Our Snow Leopard Program Director, Dr. Tom McCarthy, explained that “Following a mother-daughter pair and seeing when the younger female leaves home and where she establishes her own home range is an exciting possibility. This collaring, and the ones before it, has helped us reach a new level of understanding about these iconic cats; an understanding that could help us bring them back from the brink of extinction.”
As a part of this study in Mongolia, high-tech digital camera-traps are used to identify snow leopards from their unique spot patterns, which indicates how many of these cats remain in the wild. For example, we recently released a camera trap video of three snow leopard cubs taken near our South Gobi, Mongolia research site that provided important data on the movements of these cubs. Our snow leopard researchers also work to safely outfit cats with a GPS collar that gathers critical data on snow leopards’ movements and behavior, which are relayed back to our team via satellite telephone several times a day.
We will share photos of F4 with you as soon as they are available, so be sure to check back. To learn more about our snow leopard work, visit the Snow Leopard Program page. Read more about the snow leopard species, click here.