Tracking Afghanistan's Elusive Snow Leopards
July 17, 2012
Snow leopards are among the most elusive big cats, and those living in Afghanistan make themselves particularly scarce. Although they are apex predators in the 12 nations they range, snow leopards face threats that include poaching and loss of natural prey.
To improve understanding of their range and behavior, WCS conservationists worked with local veterinarians and an expert tracker from Nat Geo WILD to tranquilize two adult male cats in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. The researchers took DNA samples and affixed radio collars that will allow them to "tag along" as these snow leopards make their way along the rugged peaks of the Hindu Kush. By maintaining remote data on the leopards' range and behavior, conservationists can ensure a more hopeful future for a species now reduced to as few as 3,000 animals.
WCS Afghanistan Country Director, David Lawson, said of the recent expedition, "These captures are sensational. They are also a real tribute to the knowledge of the local community rangers and the success of our recent camera trapping efforts, which enabled the team to select spots that were known to be frequented by snow leopards."
Understanding these magnificent cats is key to protecting future generations, and WCS has been leading research since the 1970s when Dr. George Schaller began surveying snow leopards and their prey in the Himalaya. WCS supported the initial radio-collar study of snow leopards under Schaller's leadership in the 1990s.