The snow leopard is a flagship species for the mountains of Asia, occupying nearly 2,000,000 square kilometers across twelve countries. Snow leopards are endangered and their numbers are declining due to poaching (for illegal trade in pelts and bones) and habitat degradation. As few as 3,500 individuals remain in the wild today.
Felidae Conservation Fund, partnered with Snow Leopard Trust and Panthera, is pioneering a long-term research project that is answering basic ecological and behavioral questions about this mysterious and elusive species. The study is being conducted using new and revolutionized technologies such as Global Positioning System (GPS) collars, non-invasive genetics, and remote camera trapping with advanced mark-recapture modeling. These methods of scientific study are being carried out in Omnogov (South Gobi), the largest but least populated province in Mongolia. This province has some of the highest densities of snow leopards in the country, as well as an abundant prey base.
This study aims to answer questions regarding the basic life history (birth and mortality rates, cub survival, dispersal rates, habitat use, and home-range size) of snow leopards that are currently unknown due to their highly cryptic nature and inaccessible habitat. The knowledge that stands to be gained from this study is vital for the survival and long-term conservation of the snow leopard.
Education will also be provided to national and provincial government officials, and most importantly to local people. “Conservation education is critical, especially for the people who share these mountains and whose lives are so closely tied to snow leopards” said Zara McDonald, Executive Director of Felidae Conservation Fund.