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Electronic surveillance tells us new things about snow leopards

Snow leopard habitat in Mongolia being studied by Panthera and SLT

The Panthera SLT Long Term Ecological Study of snow leopards in Mongolia. This map shows the distance and movement of some of the cats with electronic collars.

Electronic surveillance has been in the news a lot lately lately with illegal happenings in the Murdoch UK newspaper empire. But one place where surveillance is OK is in the work researchers do in snow leopard habitat.

Snow leopards are so notoriously shy that the use of camera traps (which are set off by the cat’s nearby movement) is one of the best ways to learn more about them and their habits.

This week an article in the NY Times quotes Dr. Tom McCarthy, director of  Panthera’s snow leopard program as saying that electronic eavesdropping brings up all sorts of new information about the way snow leopards live. ” Evidence of two cats sitting together to eat dinner was quite a shock to us,” Dr. McCarthy said. “Beyond mating and mother-cub relationships, snow leopards are supposed to be solitary,” he said.

Dr Tom McCarthy, one of the world's foremost snow leopard researchers and conservationists.

Dr Tom McCarthy. Photo Panthera.

This is fascinating news and also supports the idea some zoos now have that snow leopards sharing exhibit areas may be happier than those that don’t. See our recent Guest Blog on Zoo studies on social nature of snow leopards in captivity.

Panthera, the Snow Leopard Conservation Fund (Mongolia) and the Snow Leopard Trust are doing a Long Term Ecological Study of snow leopards, the very first of its kind, in Mongolia. We look forward to more information like this to give the world a better picture of how these cats live.

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