It has been far too long since I have shared anything snow leopard-related. This morning I opened an email from the Snow Leopard Trust, and it contained a link to a year-old blog post that I had somehow missed. It is a great story, so I had to share it.
The Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their long-term snow leopard (Panthera uncia) study in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. To mark the occasion, the SLT has been sending out informational tidbits to their supporters all week. They included the link to this awesome story in one of those emails.
The post I keep going on about is called “Tracking the Mountain Ghost.” It was written by snow leopard researcher Dr. Örjan Johansson, who at the time was working on his PhD. He was living in the Gobi, capturing snow leopards to place GPS collars on them, and gathering crucial data about the species’ ecology.
There are a number of reasons I like Dr. Johansson’s post. First, he describes his surroundings remarkably well. One can almost feel the cold of the Gobi as it seeps into his bones, hear the deafening quiet of the moonlit night, and sense Dr. Johansson’s reluctance to leave his warm sleeping bag.
Dr. Johansson enhances these sensory details with a short video that gives viewers a tour of his camp. As you can see below, Johansson’s surroundings are lush and tropical. There is sand, some rocks, and even more sand. His ger also contains every convenience one could ask for: some boxes, two old-looking stoves, a tea kettle, and the odd tranquilizer gun.
Of course, Johansson’s post discusses more than just the opulence of his living quarters. He talks about the importance of the SLT’s long-term study; given that it might result in more data on snow leopards than all previous studies combined. This is crucial, because – as Johansson explains – very little is known about these elusive cats.
What we do know, however, is that snow leopards face many threats. Local herders kill them to protect livestock, mining and other developments are degrading snow leopard habitat, and this unique species of wild felid (cat) is being increasingly poached for traditional Asian medicine. In short, these extraordinary animals need our help.
The Snow Leopard Trust is one of several groups working to protect snow leopards – and to make it easier for local people to coexist with them. I strongly recommend you follow the link below to read Dr. Johansson’s story. While there, why not click around and learn more about the SLT? They are an excellent organization to support.