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12/30/2013

Meet the world's first snow leopard with a collar

Snowl

A November picture of a rare snow leopard after being captured and fitted with a satellite collar to track its activites in Nepal. AFP photo/WWF Nepal/Kamal Thapa.  

Putting a collar on a snow leopard, one of the most elusive animals on the planet, is like trying to teach a dog to meow. Equally impossible.

But now World Wildlife Foundation has done just that, for the first time.

A snow leopard in the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area in Nepal has been fitted with a satellite-GPS collar for the first time. The snow leopard, says WWF, is an adult male about five years old, weighs 40 kilogram was fitted with the collar and released into the wild late last month.

“The snow leopard collaring is indeed a new win for Nepal,” said Megh Bahadur Pandey, director general of the department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Nepal. “It reiterates the commitment of the government to strengthen measures to better understand and protect the snow leopard whose survival is under threat from anthropogenic actions and the pervasive impacts of global climate change.”

The expedition lasted 45 days.

Collaring will play a key role in identifying snow leopard hotspots for tracking and monitoring.

“While past studies on the snow leopard have been limited to areas that are accessible to people, this technology will help provide important information on the ecology and behavior of the wide ranging snow leopard,” said Narendra Man Babu Pradhan, coordinator for development, research and monitoring at WWF Nepal.

Data from the satellite collar will determine the snow leopard’s movement patterns, habitat use and preferences.

The snow leopard is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list of threatened species as globally endangered. According to estimates, there are less than 3,000 snow leopards in the wild.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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