Snow leopard migration to be tracked using satellite collars

Snow leopard migration to be tracked using satellite collars

9 October 2012

Scientists at the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve plan to put satellite collars on two snow leopards in 2013 to trace the migration routes of this rarest cat, according to Sergei Istomov, the reserve's Deputy Director for Science, one of the leading snow leopard specialists in Russia. He said that studying the route of the snow leopard migration in Sayany, the animal's northernmost habitat in the world, is now the number one problem. All further strategy of snow leopard preservation depends on this data.


According to Istomov, eight to nine snow leopards permanently live at the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve. They were identified by photo traps. The pride's dominent male is Mongol, the first animal in Russia to be outfitted with a satellite collar as part of the programme for the study of snow leopards. Researchers observe alien snow leopards during the mating season, but where the animals come from and leave to is still not clear. There is a similar problem with babies from Mongol's pride. No one knows where the adult snow leopards have gone to, and where they are now. The nearest to the Sayno-Shushensky Reserve stable snow leopard population is 250-300 km away, in Mongolia.


"It is necessary to put a collar on a male who comes during the mating season, or an adolescent who will leave soon. Whatever people who are ignorant of this issue might say about how putting a collar on during the mating season will harm the animal's chances of finding a mate is utter nonsense. That is exactly when a collar should be affixed, as the male will leave shortly thereafter," Istomov explained. He said that only after the snow leopards' migration route is studied can effective measures be taken for the route's protection, thereby saving the leopards from poachers.


According to Istomov, in 2013 scientists plan to affix satellite collars on snow leopards during the mating season in late winter-early spring. Siberian ibexes, snow leopard's main prey, will also be outfitted with collars. This will provide additional information about snow leopards' migration routes. "Vertical migration of ibexes is still not clear. Now they are descending, but it is not clear where they were three months earlier. But when we know this, we will know where to search for snow leopards, as a shepherd is always near the herd." Sergei Istomov said.