More good news for the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) as data arrives from two adult males that were successfully captured, collared and released in late May and early June this year in Afghanistan. The first snow leopard to be captured, named Pahlawan, has been found to have travelled over 125 kilometres so far, while the second, named Khani Wakhai, despite being captured more recently, has travelled more than 153 kilometres. The story has been filmed by Nat Geo Wild and will be shown in a documentary, Snow Leopards of Afghanistan in December this year during Big Cat Week. The ability to track the movements of adult snow leopards will be a massive aid in learning more about their behaviour, habitat and range, and when combined with current studies of the early life of snow leopard cubs will greatly expand our knowledge of this iconic endangered species. Snow leopards have now been recognised as endangered by the IUCN for 30 years, and with today’s populations estimated between just 3000 and 7500 individuals, studies like these will be essential if we are to save this majestic big cat. To support the conservation of snow leopards as well as many other endangered species and their habitats, please consider donating to the Wildlife Conservation Society, who collaborated with Afghan veterinarians to complete this research.
Ref: Stephen Sautner (2012). First snow leopards collared in Afghanistan. EurekAlert! Zoology News [link]
The discovery of the dens of two snow leopard (Panthera uncia) mothers with young cubs in Mongolia’s Tost Mountains by conservation organisations Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust will help to provide much-needed insights into the early life of this elusive endangered species. Read the full story here!
Camera traps have recently captured the first ever images of an Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) on the Chinese side of the Russian-Chinese boundary over which they occur. Sixteen camera traps, twelve of which were donated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, were placed within the Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in Jilin Province, China last month. Along with a recent survey estimating the presence of around 8-11 leopards within the province, the photographs are important evidence that Amur leopards may be returning to China. Previously, the majority of the Amur leopard population has been found on the Russian side of the border, where 29 leopards were captured by camera trapping last winter. Researchers predict that the population may finally be growing after a long period hovering around 30 individuals, and now may number 40 or more. If you want to support the plight of the Amur leopard and many other endangered species please visit the WCS website.
Ref: Sautner S., 2012. First camera trap photos of rare leopard in China. EurekAlert! Zoology News [link]
The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) is the world’s most endangered species of tiger - less than 30 remain in the wild, and only around 60 in captivity. What is remarkable about conservation efforts for this particular species is that populations are being returned to the wild in a controversial project that takes them via South Africa. Li Quan, founder of Save China’s Tigers, explains: ”Wildlife management is an art, and it’s one in which South Africa excels. China is still poor and if people are hungry they will hunt wildlife. Poverty alleviation is the Chinese government’s priority, so there’s little money for conservation. There is also wholesale loss of the prey animals on which large predators survive. We have no time to lose, and I persuaded the Chinese government that we should re-wild the tigers in a 600-hectare reserve in South Africa while restoring their habitat in China in preparation for their return.” The ‘re-wilding’ project teaches young tigers, including those from captive backgrounds that may never have even seen grass before, to hunt in order that they can be returned to wild, a process that takes about 18 months. The tigers will be returned to nature reserves in China once sustainable populations of prey have been established and people living in target areas have been resettled.
Ref: Armstrong (2011) Li Quan: Why Chinese tigers should return via Africa. New Scientist 2828 29. [link]