Initiated in 2008, the Snow Leopard Trust’s long-term comprehensive ecological study of snow leopards addresses critical gaps in knowledge ranging from spatial and trophic ecology to basic population parameters such as predation patterns and foraging strategies, birth and mortality rates, and juvenile dispersal.
While focusing on the snow leopard, the research also seeks to illuminate the relationships between wildlife, livestock, humans, and abiotic factors.
To date, the project has been very successful with 19 snow leopards being fitted with GPS collars as well as collection of other important information on the ecology of the Tost ecosystem.
In 2015, we plan to conduct an 8-week research camera session to continue to monitor snow leopard population dynamics (abundance, survival, recruitment) within the Tost mountain range.
Research cameras will also help target trapping and collaring sites of known and new individuals. The cameras study in Tost will be implemented mid-July to mid-September.
This summer we also hope to conduct camera surveys in Nemegt and other neighboring mountains to expand the study and learn more about snow leopards on a larger scale. We will also continue to collaborate with parks personnel to increase our capacity of the camera study.
In 2013, we secured funding from the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) for a study on livestock losses at corrals and how to reduce such losses. The study consists of three parts:
- a survey of livestock losses and physical characteristics of the corrals
- a survey of herder attitudes towards snow leopards and wolves
- an experiment to test fences as a method to reduce losses at corrals.
We completed a lot of the initial surveys on livestock losses and attitude assessments along with a workshop to introduce the fencing experiment to the herders in 2014, along with the actual construction of the fences themselves.
In 2015, we will focus on monitoring of the fencing experiment and determine how well the fences perform and look forward to updating you with the results.
Studies on Livestock Grazing, Disease
This spring, we plan to initiate a study on livestock grazing and its effect on mountain ecosystems where factors such as grazing pressure, habitat degradation, and factors affecting variation in forage availability will be important.
Another objective for 2015 is to continue with the analysis from our first-ever snow leopard disease survey using blood samples collected from wild snow leopards in Tost.
This groundbreaking research was made possible with support from the Whitley Fund for Nature and the Helsinki Zoo along with the Swedish Veterinary Institute and will provide science’s first glimpse into snow leopard exposure to common feline pathogens, and lay the foundation for a novel disease monitoring system.
In 2013, Researcher Marc Wiseman completed the initial screening of snow leopard samples collected in 2008-2012 at the Veterinary Institute in Sweden (SVA).
In 2014, Researcher Carol Esson started the screening of samples from other organisms of the ecosystem (rodents, goats, dogs, flees, and ticks) collected in 2012 and 2013. This work was and will continue to be done at the One Health lab at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Carol will complement the data collected in 2012 and 2013 with a survey on human health and livestock to increase our understanding of diseases among domestic animals and diseases that transmit between wildlife and human (zoonosis). The results from these screenings and surveys will be important for developing a monitoring program for diseases in high altitude landscapes of south-central Asia that can be implemented in all focal landscapes that the Trust works in. It would be very good from a logistical point of view if this monitoring system could also be based on scats rather than solely on blood samples.
This will be an exciting year for our long-term study and we look forward to keeping you posted with our endeavors including any changes to our field schedule and plans.
The long-term study is a joint project of the Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation in cooperation with the Mongolia Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, and the Mongolia Academy of Sciences.
It’s made possible through the support of:
Cat Life Foundation
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Swedish University of Agricultural Science
Whitley Fund for Nature
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
South Lakes Wild Animal Park
Safari Club International Foundation
Snow Leopard Trust UK
Edrington Group & Edrington Americas