December 11, 2012
Panthera Camera Traps Catch Snow Leopards In Their Habitat
[ Watch the Video: Snow Leopard Cubs Seen On Camera Traps ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
As many as 300 of the 3,500 to 7,000 wild snow leopards live in the Tajik Pamirs. This area is considered to be a critical link between the southern and northern regions of the snow leopard's range, serving as a vital genetic corridor for the species.
Panthera recently released the footage obtained from a camera trap set up in the area of a mother snow leopard and her cubs.
The organization has carried out two camera trap surveys in the Pamir Mountains, including one in Tajikistan´s Jartygumbez Istyk River region.
Panthera said that while reviewing photos from the survey's 40 camera traps, the team uncovered new images of a snow leopard mother and her two cubs.
"In true holiday form, the playful cubs are shown licking and pawing icicles, and attempting to climb a rock," the team wrote in a press statement. "Along with this entertaining footage, also included are stunning images of the snow leopard mother and one of her cubs inspecting the camera trap, their quizzical faces pressed up against the camera lens."
The footage helps to indicate that a healthy, breeding snow leopard population exists in the Jartygumbez Istyk River region of Tajikistan.
When combining the data with evidence gathered in 2011 of snow leopard cubs in the Zorkul region of Tajikistan's Pamir Mountains, it adds evidence to a thriving population in the habitat.
Panthera said its scientists are reviewing all of the camera traps photos from the surveys to assess the size of the region's snow leopard population, and the significance of the Pamirs as a part of the snow leopard's corridor.
The team has collected snow leopard scat samples for diet analysis, and are conducting surveys to evaluate the abundance of the snow leopard prey species. Panthera also said its team is assessing the management and impact of local trophy hunting concessions and nature reserves.
Scientists at the organization have identified poaching and unsustainable hunting of snow leopard prey, including ibex and Marco polo sheep, as a major threat to Tajikistan's snow leopards.
The staff is working with local villagers and a trophy "prey" hunting expert to analyze the infrastructure and training needed to establish a hunting program of prey species. This program, which begins in 2013, will help better regulate the current unsustainable hunting of ibex and Marco polo sheep to conserve Tajikistan's snow leopards.
"Ultimately, if successful, Panthera hopes to use this community-based prey hunting program model to implement similar operations in other Central Asian countries," according to the statement.