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3 wild snow leopards in one photo!

Three wild snow leopards caught on a camera trap in northern Pakistan. The cameras are set up in places where snow leopards are likely to be passing and activated by the cats. Getting three snow leopards in one photo is extremely unusual. Photo Panthera, SLT and Pakistan Snow Leopard Foundation.

A group of three wild snow leopards have been photographed in a single photo in Khunjerab National Park in northern Pakistan. Supported by Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust, the Pakistan Snow Leopard Foundation collaborated with the National Park and the Wildlife department in a camera trapping session from late November to end December 2010. Over 600 photographs were taken.

The three cats are judged to be 2 young adults (also called subadults) and their mother and we see them sitting majestically together. It’s truly a wonderful photograph.

Khunjerab is one of the highest altitude parks in the world. As well as being snow leopard habitat it is also home to other endangered species like Marco Polo sheep and Himalayan Ibex (both are important snow leopard prey).

Villagers in northern Pakistan setting up camera traps for snow leopard photos. Photo by T.Grobet / Rolex Awards.

The camera trapping project records data about snow leopards, other carnivores that share snow leopard habitat and snow leopard prey species in a way that’s difficult to do without this technology. The study also tested the affect of different kinds of baits on camera trapping success and hopefully we’ll hear about what sort of bait was used to get this fabulous photo some time soon.

At the same time over 1400 km² area was scanned and 150 fecal (snow leopard droppings or scat) samples were collected for genetic analysis. The study presented a learning opportunity for Wildlife Department staff and and students from national and international universities. When the data’s been analysed, Park staff and the Wildlife department will be able to better manage conservation of snow leopards and the impact of the villagers that share this snow leopard habitat. Conservationists are working on many community-based programs as well as awareness raising in the hope of increasing numbers of the beautiful but endangered snow leopard.

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