Pursuing “Ghosts of the Mountains” Via GPS Technology

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GPS Technology help researchers track snow leopards, allowing more in-depth study of this big cat specie.

 

Oftentimes called “ghosts of the mountains”, snow leopards live in the high mountainous areas of Central Asia making them almost inaccessible to researchers tasked to observe and study this cat specie.   

But with advancements in technology, a research team was able to monitor the animals including their movements within their home ranges.

Researchers took advantage of new technology by clipping GPS collars on these felines.  It took them six years (2008 to 2014) to collar 16 felines roaming the mountainous regions of Mongolia.

The GPS collars were designed to record the animal’s movements four times a day, everyday for about a year.

Data culled from the GPS device indicated that male leopards have roamed approximately 80 square miles of terrain while their female counterparts covered about 48 square miles.  These new figures are over 40 times more than existing data.

According to conservation experts this new data will definitely alter plans made by agencies working to ensure a healthy population of snow leopards.  Population targets and conservation plans which were earlier based on substantially lower home ranges will have to be adjusted.

Snow leopards have to roam and cover a vast area of mountainous terrain just to find food.  Leopards in search of bigger but hard to find prey like wild sheep, deer, panda, and goats have to move from one mountain to another.

While these breed of cats are incredibly strong and able to travel on rough and rocky terrain with great ease, their population has dwindled to 7,000 globally.  Goat herders indiscriminately kill snow leopards to protect domestic livestock from being attacked.  This is a serious threat to snow leopard population according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The latest study also indicate that these leopards are no different from most felines in that they are territorial creatures.  Males will ward off other males.  The same is true of female leopards.

Meanwhile, Zoology expert Katey Duffey pointed out that the new study is very reliable.  She mentioned too that GPS systems are practical tools for conducting studies on snow leopards and other solitary and evasive animals.

While experts  lauded the recent discoveries on snow leopards, they are convinced that these revelations are just the tip of the iceberg.

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