Title, Snow leopards 2 (maybe 3) – Researchers 0

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…

Yesterday morning, Kim woke me up saying ” one of the snares has changed pulse.” “Really” I replied, a bit newly awake. “Yup” she replied and left the ger. As I tried to get out of the sleeping bag and find my clothes, I heard Kim saying “one more?”, obviously addressing Namshur who was checking the traps that we can hear from camp. I had put on my pants and was just about to grab the deodorant (a quick farmers-shower) when I heard Kim saying “three?” To hell with the deodorant, I ain’t here to be pretty or smell good, just threw on some clothes and went outside in time to see Namshur start ascending the mountain to check the signals from the traps that we can’t hear from camp. It takes at least 15 minutes to get to the saddle [dip in the mountain] where we check the traps so I grabbed a sandwich and a cup of tea and went to check the capture kit. After a while, Namshur called in on the radio saying “five snares are fast [sending signals].” Kim asked him to repeat, no, we heard right, five traps have been tripped. Kim and I look at each other saying, “are we being invaded by snow leopards”?

I was a bit  stressed when I realized that I hadn’t packed the capture kit for multiple captures, sure enough, there would not be a snow leopard in all of the snares but there might be a few Ibex or a female with kittens so I had to supplement the pack with syringes and other stuff.

You might find it a bit too relaxed to have breakfast before we left but the thing is that our vehicle left with Tom and the others so we were going to have to hike to all our snares on foot (about 12 km) so I figured that I would need some energy.

The first two traps, both of them in a canyon called Wind Tunnel, were tripped by a snow leopard. Downside was, there were no snow leopard in either of the traps, just some hair… I will take the blame for it, I cleaned these traps after the rain and the only explanation is that I didn’t do a good enough job with getting all the debris off from the cable, with the result that the cable ran too slow and the leopard was able to pull it’s paw out of the snare before it closed. Feels really bad but I learned that lesson and it won’t happen again. Only good thing about it is that we know that the traps are placed good since he/she stepped in both of them…

Well, we still had three to go, off to the North Canyon.

No leopard here either. Actually, what happened was that the string from the trap to the transmitter was pulled out, most likely, an ibex had tripped on it.

Oh well, there were still two traps left, off to Pujii’s Canyon.

This trap was released and the snare was closed tight but no leopard.
And no hair. Something had stepped into the trap but we don’t know what, maybe a smaller animal (fox or a leopard kitten) or the snare was also too slow and the leopard got away, though we couldn’t find any hair on this snare. We did find fresh pug marks in the sand a few hundred meters from the snare but apart from that, nothing.

Well, the last trap had to contain a leopard, right?


Actually, nothing had happened to this trap, it probably malfunctioned cause when we came there, the radio pulse was normal. We got afraid that we had mixed up the frequencies and since we had already checked most of the snares, we hiked to the remaining four to check them too.

All this was accomplished in less than four hours with the only result being that we were quite tired when we got back to camp. We had walked as fast as we could considering there might be an animal trapped and it was getting hot rapidly.

So much for yesterday, today we downloaded pictures from a trap camera and found a new leopard (as in, one that we haven’t identified before); we have at least five different leopards visiting the area where the traps are (within 3 km from camp). We also built a new trap at a saddle where we have photographed three different individuals.

Oyuna left the camp together with Benji yesterday. Benji is going to Dalandzadgad for another semester at the boarding school and Oyuna wanted to accompany her so we are cooking our own food for a couple of days. Quite interesting since at least I am unfamiliar with many of the ingredients in camp. Apparently, Oyuna is worried that I don’t eat enough too, especially that I don’t eat enough meat. She insists that I must eat more sheep fat, otherwise I will not survive the winter. Last time we went to Gurvantes she wanted me to shave so she could introduce me to some nice Mongolian girls, I explained that my beard will soon be very long and that the girls would not like me, it’s quite funny, I just hope that there will be no serious attempts to find a girl for me. Could be a bit awkward to get out of that situation.

We hope that our new car will come in a week, together with my motorbike, for the moment we are stranded in camp with no means to get water or food. I might have forgot to write that there is a well about 4 km away where we get our water. I really need to find me some camels. They would be great for getting water, hauling equipment into the mountains and for leisure trips on days off.

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