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Satellite collars help find wild cubs in Mongolia

Yesterday I wrote about why snow leopard researchers use satellite collars on wild snow leopards to collect data. This interview with Orjan Johannson from the Panthera / SLT snow leopard project in Mongolia’s South Gobi desert shows the role that satellite collars played in the recent discovery of the first ever wild cubs in a den. (Interview by James Fair, environment editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine.)

These photos of the cubs and their mum Lasya were taken by Orjan and his team.

“How did you find the cubs?

We caught and collared two adult females last year. Then, towards the end of May this year, 2012,, the GPS on their collars indicated that they were restricting their movements to a small area. So we thought that they were about to den and give birth.

What happened next?

Both females disappeared, and we spent 12 days listening to the radio signals from their collars. They were in a small area, but the mountains are full of crevices so it was hard to know exactly where.

How did you work it out?

Approaching a possible den site, we realised from 50m away that one of the females was there. Getting closer, I heard the cubs and I could smell them, too – adults don’t usually smell.

How did you get the footage?

The cats were behind a rock wall 1m high. No one wanted to put their head above the wall, so we attached a video camera to an antenna.

We were really pleased to get the cubs on camera, because it will help us in our efforts to persuade politicians to protect the area.”

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