With a population density of one animal per 100 square kilometers, our chance of stumbling upon a snow leopard are rather low. Nevertheless, with the gear at our disposal and in the hands of this motivated team, we can go a long way towards assessing this landscape’s potential for harbouring our target creature. With the various optical scopes and binoculars we have seen many of the animals on the leopard’s menu and we’ve even seen fellow peak predators in the form of a lone wolf, sighted yesterday. It was a young wolf, which suggests a population in the active state of sustaining itself. The other predators we’ve seen are mostly eagles, which still speaks of a landscape capable of supporting a reasonable number of predators.
Testing our FLIR unit, we find that it will clearly display warm marmot mounds with their nervous tennants in the dead of night from over a hundred metres away, so I have high hopes that the upcoming overnighters will put it to good use on the cliffs and crags (leopard habitat) that their temporary camp will be established within easy sight of.
Yesterday, the team on the interview detail went out and visited a number of yurts. Kyrgyz hospitality is famous and also quite socially impossible to refuse. At each yurt we were invited inside and stuffed with bread and fermented horse milk and other delights until a number of us felt much the worse for wear. We discovered a great deal of consistent reportage of recent leopard incidents and the result is a fairly good idea of where a snow leopard and cubs are currently residing. We are heading there on horseback in the next few days to place camera traps, inching ever closer to our object of desire. Will we get there during the 2014 expedition?
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From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan