You may remember we collared Willian (F12) in late spring of this year. Both Kurzawa (M19) and Presnel (F15) were collared in early fall. While they are new to our collaring program, we know these individuals and their lineages from our long-term camera trapping initiative – see Presnel above with older cubs from a previous year.
Since being collared, Kurzawa has walked about 433 km and Presnel has walked about 123 km. Wilian has walked almost 252 km since September 1. Each cat is patrolling their respective home ranges.
Kurzawa is covering roughly 650 sq km. Willian is patrolling about 100 sq km and Presnel is covering roughly 55 sq km. Kurzawa overlaps much of Presnel’s range, but Willian is mostly patrolling an area south of the other two cats.
Snow leopard males have larger territories than females and tend to travel further on a daily basis. When females den to give birth, they only use a small area around the den. Once the cubs are old enough to leave the den, the females gradually utilize a larger portion of their territories. We are seeing these patterns reflected in the behavior of our currently collared cats, where Kurzawa ranges an area over six times larger than Willian’s and 11 times larger than Presnel’s.
Willian is traveling with one older cub who is large enough not to restrict her movements. Presnel, however, has three small cubs, which affect how much territory she can cover. Willian has used the same territory since 2018, when she settled down just west of her mother, Anu.
A previously collared male snow leopard known as Devekh held Kurzawa’s territory in the northern part of Tost from 2012 to 2017. At that time, he was likely around ten years old. We believe that Kurzawa ousted him or that Devekh died and Kurzawa found his territory vacant. Kurzawa is the second-largest (measured) snow leopard on record and has reigned over the area since that time. His territory borders are more or less the same as Devekh’s. Our research cameras photographed him on 32 separate occasions last year.
Presnel is the daughter of Dagina, granddaughter of Agnes, and mother of F13. Collaring her means we are now gathering valuable data about four generations of wild female snow leopards. Tracking Presnel’s movement patterns is important for our understanding of space use and how dispersal and settlement patterns occur between related individuals.
Ibex are key snow leopard prey in large parts of the cats’ range. We hope to gain new insights into how predators and prey influence each other’s movements and space use. In October, we collared three ibex; one male and two females. Since we received their last uplink, Clifford has walked about 71 km; Jane has walked around 74 km, and Khoorhon has traveled about 113 km. (We take one position every hour for the ibex and only one position every 5 hours for the snow leopards to get more detailed information on the former).
However, they have ranged small areas of 4, 18 and 13 sq km, respectively. As you can see, there’s a clear overlap in some parts being used by all three ibex.
The ibex rut is in late October-early November. At this time, the ibex congregate in big herds and the males fight with each other. This could explain the patterns we’ve seen where the male has moved much less than the females. The male is five years old and not yet big enough to participate in the rut. Perhaps he stays in the periphery to avoid incidents with larger males.
Sadly, we now only have one male and one female collared ibex. One of our ibex females, Khorhoon, made the fatal mistake of visiting a water hole at the same time as our snow leopard female, Presnel. We noticed that both collars sent locations from the same site for three days, after which the snow leopard left the area but the ibex, or rather the ibex collar, remained at the site.
This is the occupational hazard of following a prey animal. We were thrilled to collar these three ibex this fall. But once again, we’ve seen that while snow leopards are fascinating creatures with many amazing features, collaborating with our prey research is clearly not one of their skills.
While we can’t draw general conclusions from following only a few animals over a few months, these collared individuals are part of the longest-running, comprehensive snow leopard study in the world involving multiple animals and species over many years. (note: each animal only wears a collar for up to 20 months at a time) The data we’re gathering provides important information on ecology, behavior and demography (like survival, longevity, and reproduction) of the cats and ibex at large.
This comprehensive research aims to understand the whole ecosystem in the study area of Tost, from the snow leopard at the top of the food chain down to its prey, both wild and domestic, and the interactions between people and the environment. This crucial information helps us better understand these species and the threats they face enabling us to inform global conservation efforts to protect them and foster coexistence.
This long-term ecological study is in collaboration with Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation in Mongolia and Snow Leopard Trust with special thanks to the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, Government of Mongolia, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences for their support.
SLT would also like to acknowledge:
Acton Family Giving, Bioparc Zoo de Doue la Fontaine, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park, Kolmarden Zoo, Korkeasaari Zoo, Nordens Ark, Play for Nature, Tierpark Berlin, The Big Cat Sanctuary/Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Tulsa Zoo, Whitley Fund for Nature, Zoo Basel, Zoo Dresden, Zoo New England and the many incredible partners who have supported programs like our Long-term Ecological Study and research in Mongolia since it began in 2008. We could not do this work without you.
Thank you to all the many incredible partners who have supported our Long-term Ecological Study and research in Mongolia since it began in 2008. We could not do this work without you.