Since Megan Sanders, our Animal Behavior Programs Manager at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, returned from Mongolia last year she has continued working with the Snow Leopard Trust in an effort to save some of the last remaining wild snow leopards in the world. Here is the latest update from Megan:
I have attached the latest GPS map of the snow leopard locations in Mongolia!
The most exciting set of locations have come understandably from Zara, the lone female we have managed to follow so far. She is already covering an area larger than 200 sq. km.
Another amazing dynamic we are following is the overlap between Aztai and Khavar. There is greater than 90% overlap of home range sites between these two males, which is exciting and informative.
For more than two decades we have known that snow leopards use home ranges that overlapped extensively. Unlike many other solitary felids, this even holds true for males. We long suspected that their elaborate scent and sign marking system evolved, at least in part, to allow males avoid one another while using almost identical spaces. As we continue to follow these intricate movements and interactions of our collared cats, and ultimately their offspring, we will hopefully better understand this unique social system that seems to allow cats to live in close quarters yet avert aggressive interactions. That alone is something we could have never done even 5 years ago before the advent of GPS-satellite phone collar technology.
Right now there is a big push to protect important snow leopard habitat from mining permits. The Tost Mountains is where I traveled while I was in Mongolia and where the research camp and the collared cats reside. Below is a little update on some of the actions that are being taken by SLT staff to try and save this important habitat.
Mining currently threatens landscapes used by herders and wildlife in Mongolia. Because the majority of the Tost Mountain range was designated for mining, Bayara, our Mongolia Country Program Director, led community meetings in the Tost Township that resulted in a unified effort by the community to exclude the region from mining and declare it a People's Protected Area.
Of course I always love to plug my Q4C project (Quarters for Conservation)! :) The exciting thing about this year is that funds will be directly supporting Mongolian communities in developing and implementing their own conservation action plans. This will create a broader on the ground conservation force who is actively invested in, looking out for and spreading awareness about snow leopards and the threats that face them.
YAY SNOW LEOPARDS!! Man I wish I was out there collaring some cats! :)