Well, the last traps are in and as of this year in Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan, despite three reliable and recent instances of horses being attacked and the clear sound of a leopard’s cough, we have not managed to bag a photograph. The last traps were from the Kashka Tor valley in which two horses had run-ins with our big cat. The first, you may remember from a few weeks ago, was killed, leading to an overnighter in that valley a few days after the camera traps were placed. The second, very recent attack was on a foal whose mother apparently drove off the leopard leading to a survivor with fresh and quite dramatic wounds, which we have photographed. The feeling amongst those with a perspective to speak from are that the most likely cause of such damage is in fact a snow leopard.
Today is the last day on the ground here and it was spent by some on an interview run into the East Karakol valley system. This time the team sought to focus on the relationship between the women of the Kyrgyz herder culture and the leopard, because in the small glimpses of such that we had obtained thus far, it appears that they have a more ambivalent attitude to the animal than the men, who speak in very patriotic terms about the Kyrgyzstan national symbol. It will be interesting to hear what the interviews yield.
The rest of us went about preparing the base camp for tomorrow’s hectic pack-down. We have quite a lot of stuff to load into the trucks in the morning, but the work we did today will make it much easier.
This afternoon, Volodia will sum up the expedition science achievements and discuss the likely evolution of the project. I understand that there is some interest in a night of vodka on the part of some team members who have been sitting on a stash for this occasion. I better pack my stuff up now then…
From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan