Preparations are underway in Spiti in the Indian Himalayas to equip and track a snow leopard with a GPS collar for the nations’s first comprehensive and long-term radio-collaring project of these endangered felines.
Before this piece of high-tech equipment is fitted onto a pioneering snow leopard, it undergoes rigorous testing! While we have a wealth of experience using GPS collars on snow leopards in Mongolia, there is no such data available for India – and conditions are entirely different.
“Different countries have different regulations about the use of such devices, available frequencies and many more technicalities”, explains the Trust’s Senior Regional Ecologist, Dr. Koustubh Sharma. “Then, we have the issue of satellite coverage, which varies across the area. All of that makes it impossible to simply use the same collaring equipment in India that we’ve been using in Mongolia.”
Finding the right equipment to work in Spiti has proven challenging. Now, our field team is hoping to have found a promising solution: a newly designed Vectronics collar that houses a different satellite phone transmitter than the one we use in Mongolia.
Supported by our Associate of Policy and Research, Ajay Bijoor, the India team is currently putting the collar through a series of rigorous tests to ensure that it can withstand the wear and tear of being on a wild snow leopard.
So far, the collar seems to be performing well. However, we will continue more tests and wait to see the results as a whole before making a decision on the usability of the collar.
The planned GPS collaring study in India, a joint project of the Snow Leopard Trust, NCF India, and the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, has been approved in 2014. It will allow to compare snow leopard behavior in the high-altitude habitat of the Indian Himalayas to data collected over the last decade in our ongoing long-term study in Mongolia’s South Gobi, a very different ecosystem at a much lower altitude.