Snow Leopard Trials and Joys

The success of our recent snow leopard capture in Mongolia is something we can all share pride in, but it also carries a lot of responsibility.  We now have a live cat with our collar on it, and data streaming in.  The welfare of the cat, and how useful the research results prove to be, is something we are responsible for now, and something that the team in Camp and I think about constantly.  So when I downloaded the data from the collar yesterday and found 3 days worth of good GPS relocations I was quite pleased and sent the data to Camp. Then I plotted the data myself using Google Earth.  I rechecked the data several times and then sent Camp another note.

Hey guys, I just plotted that data I sent you and it doesn’t look good.  The cat/collar has not moved at all in about 3 days. Maybe he is on a kill, but I see no movement at all.  This is not good.  Check it out please when you have a car or motorcycle to get you there, and let me know what we have.  Tom

The 9 hour time difference between Seattle and the Gobi means it will be at least 12 hours before I hear from them.  So I have LOTS of time to wonder what has happened. I am on the computer first thing in the morning to see if there is news from Camp.  There are 2 letters from them.  The first letter indicates that Kim has not waited for vehicle support to get to the bottom of it.  She wrote:

Ouch!  This is lousy news indeed.  Orjan and Namshir just left on foot to check out the site of Aztai’s most recent locations.  They took the receiver and antenna and a GPS unit with a few of the locations from the collar.  My guess is that the release mechanism has failed [meaning the collar has “released” and falled off prematurely], but obviously I’m hoping for the world’s largest ibex kill.  We’ll let you know as soon as we have an update.  Kim

The second letter has the outcome:

Hey Tom,  Fantastic news!  Orjan and Namshir just returned from the field.  There was no sign of Aztai or his collar at the site.  But, they did find the fresh carcass of a FREAKIN HUGE male ibex (12 yrs. old) and a fresh pug mark at the water hole nearby!  So, Aztai’s   collar locations should begin moving again, as the carcass was stripped clean.  But perhaps he’ll be a bit sluggish for the next couple of days given how much he appears to have eaten over the past week.  This is incredible news on several accounts.  Congrats!   Kim

Just to confirm what I am reading, I log on and download the latest collar data.  Two data points have been uploaded from the collar in the last 12 hours and I write back to Camp:

Wow, you guys just made my morning!  That is such great news.  And he IS moving.  About 3/4 of a mile NE of the kill site now.

Thats all.  Just thought it would be fun to share this.


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