A snow leopard mother and cub in a den in Mongolia. (Photo : Panthera/SLT)
Snow leopards are infamously elusive and their habitat does not make finding them any easier. Now, for the first time ever, the wildcat conservation organization group Panthera and Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) has filmed and photographed a snow leopard mother and cubs in their dens.
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Snow leopards live in the mountains of Central Asia and lead relatively reclusive lives. Filming them in the wild is tough, and finding out where their den is located is even tougher. Locals even refer to the snow leopard as "Asia's Mountain Ghost." Most of what we know today about snow leopards comes from studying them in captivity.
The snow leopard is listed as an endangered species and this discovery has the executive director of Panthera's Snow Leopard Program excited.
"We have spent years trying to determine when and where snow leopards give birth, the size of their litters, and the chances a cub has of surviving into adulthood. This is one of those exceptional moments in conservation where after years of effort, we get a rare glimpse into the life of an animal that needs our help in surviving in today's world. These data will help ensure a future for these incredible animals," said Dr. Tom McCarthy.
This video of snow leopard cubs was shot by Örjan Johansson with a camera attached to an extended pole.
It took a month of intensive searching, but the team eventually located two dens. While the mothers were away hunting, the researchers entered the dens and carefully photographed, weighed, and measured the cubs.
"Knowledge about the first days and weeks of life is vital to our understanding of how big cat populations work, and how likely it is for a newborn to reach adulthood and contribute to a healthy population. A valid conservation program requires such information, which this new development in snow leopard research provides," said Dr. Howard Quigley, Panthera's Executive Director of both Jaguar and Cougar Programs.