Collar Malfunction

Orjan is a Swedish PhD student who bought a one-way ticket to Mongolia to work at the base camp of our long-term research project.  These are his adventures…

I had a great time with Jenny and Geir [they just left] and I hope, and think, that they enjoyed the visit. In three days Bo comes here. Bo will be one of my supervisors for my PhD.

Last Sunday morning we could hear a transmiter going on fast pulse [meaning a snow leopard was in the trap], so both Jenny and I got out of the sleeping bags fast. The snow leopard was sitting at the corner of a cliff. As we got closer we saw that the cat already had a GPS radio collar. I knew it was Tsaagan even before I saw his spots.  Well, we got a weight for him (41.5 kg) and could determine that he is the cat formerly known as “Bummer” so at least seeing him again gave us some good information. [When Orjan first gave Tsagaan a GPS collar, it was night and he didn’t have a chance to take the cat’s weight, or to identify him].

The day after we met Tsagaan again, I got an e-mail from Kim saying that Tsagaan’s collar has malfunctioned. It only worked for five days before it gave up. So when we were with Tsagaan the second time he had a malfunctioning collar and we released him without changing it. Well. We didn’t know that it wasn’t working, couldn’t tell by looking at it.

In general, we spend about 20 days scouting this area, climbing up and down in the mountains to find the best sites to fit a snow leopard with a GPS collar, then we deployed the trap cameras, check them and collect them. Building the traps takes a great amount of time and they are very carefully constructed so as not to harm the snow leopard. When all this is done we check the traps visually every second day and listen to the transmitters at 18:00, 22:00, 01:30, 05:00, 08:00 and once in the middle of the day. So it is no small matter to accomplish this work, but these kinds of things can happen.

[At this point, its worth noting the response of Dr. Tom McCarthy, Managing Director of Field Programs: “This is not great news, but it’s all in the game of these evolving technologies.  Right now we don’t know if the GPS is working and the sat-phone has failed, or vise versa, or the whole collar has gone gunny sack.  Kim is watching for any uplink and will let us know.”  Meanwhile, if Orjan gets the chance, he will change the collar.]

To end with some good news we deployed four cameras and we got pictures of a new cat after three days. The cat looks slender and gives a feminine impression.

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