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"A rare and precious sight" Tom McCarthy reflects on seeing a snow leopard and her three cubs in the wild

Tom McCarthy in Mongolia, working on Snow Leopard Trust 10 year project. Photo Snow Leopard Trust.

Tom Mc Carthy is Director of Snow Leopard Programs for Panthera (the conservation agency started in 2006 to protect the world’s 36 species of wild cats). He’s currently working on a long term snow leopard project in Mongolia but recently wrote about an magical moment 12 years ago when he saw an elusive snow leopard mother and her three cubs in the wild.

“Routinely eluded by these secretive cats, I didn’t expect to see her today. Then, like a ghost, she appeared from a brush thicket three hundred yards down slope. For the first two minutes, I didn’t breath, hoping not to attract her attention….

Then, with no concern for stealth, three balls of fur exploded from the brush, crashing into their mother’s legs. Cubs! The 2-month-olds tussled with each other and rolled into a shallow ravine. I tucked myself farther into the shadow of the boulder, but at this distance I was surely well hidden. I thought.


An instant later, the mother leopard turned slowly and looked toward me. She seemed to stare directly into my telescope, clearly not pleased. With that, she abruptly departed, urging the three cubs to follow. Stopping to pick up a straggler in her mouth, she topped the next ridge, and the family disappeared. I tracked her many times over the next 4 months, yet she never allowed another glimpse of those cubs. A dozen years later, I reflect on that day, and am content to have had a moment in the presence of such a rare and precious sight.”

More on Tom McCarthy’s conservation work on the Panthera website here.

Full story here.

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