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Snow Leopard Update from Dr. Jennifer Snell Rullman: Great News from Field Team in Mongolia

Dear Research and Conservation Partner,

We've had some incredibly great news from our field team in Mongolia over the last few weeks and I wanted to make sure you were among the first to hear:

On April 22nd, we got a message from our field team saying they had just radio-collared a 4th snow leopard. This is a cat we had never seen before on our remote cameras, bringing the number of snow leopards sighted in our study area up to nine! The cat has been named Shonkhor, which means “falcon” in Mongolian. A pair of endangered Saker Falcons were nesting at the site where he was collared. In addition, falcons are a symbol of youth in Mongolia, and Shonkhor appears to be a young cat. Orjan, one of our researchers, describes him as "quite small," weighing a little less than 70 lbs (~35kg). We think the young male may be close to two years of age. You can see him in the attached photo!

Dr. Kim Murray, Assistant Director of Science states, “If it is true that Shonkhor is indeed a youngster, it will provide the Trust with an unprecedented opportunity to learn how the movements of younger cats compare with those of adults, and how cubs establish their home ranges. This information has never been documented before, but is key to understanding how snow leopards use their habitat so that we can design programs and policies to ensure their survival.”

Over the last week, we have been posting information about Shonkhor and our research updates on our blog at www.blog.snowleopard.org and our website www.snowleopard.org. But before I could pause long enough from the follow up needed with our Mongolia team to tell you, we had the incredible announcement from Orjan: “We have actually collared a 5th snow leopard!”

The incredible thing is that this young male is nearly the same size as Shonkhor and was captured very close to the same place. We are wondering if this might mean they are brothers who have recently dispersed from their mother. We can not be sure yet, it might be a coincidence that we caught these two young males so close together. However, if DNA analysis indicates that they are brothers, it may present the first opportunity for researchers to record information about the dispersal of young snow leopards. How far will they travel? How long will they stay together? Will they successfully hunt wild prey, or could it be that they will fall for the temptation that domestic livestock offer them - becoming problem cats like other young cats of the world have been known to do in transition?

Please read the attached letter sent by Orjan just yesterday from base camp. I have also attached the latest map, including the location of the collaring site for the 5th cat, soon to be named Saikhan, meaning “beautiful” in Mongolian. The map illustrates how all four male cats are living in close proximity - using the same area. It also shows exactly where Shonkhor and Saikhan were collared.

We are learning so much at this new long-term study site. It's such an incredible project - thank you for being a part of it. Your support helps make this all possible and more! Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions and please pass this along to all the folks who have been so involved in the project!

Sincerely,

Jennifer Snell Rullman
Conservation Program Director
Snow Leopard Trust
www.snowleopard.org

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