“It’s more than just tying a camera to a rock,” said Koustubh Sharma, instructing conservationists in Kyrgyzstan how to monitor snow leopards with motion-triggered photo and video “traps.”
Sharma, a 36-year-old Indian zoologist, has studied the endangered cats in Mongolia’s Southern Gobi region since 2007. His presentation was part of a recent workshop in Bishkek, when Kyrgyz government officials and leading scientists met with representatives of several international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss coordinating efforts to count snow leopard populations in the country, and the wider region.
It is no easy task. Snow leopards have earned the moniker “the ghosts of the mountains” for a reason. The elusive cats live in remote regions, often at altitudes of 3,000 to 4,000 meters. They usually forage and hunt at night and their black-and-off-white coats serve as perfect camouflage in the snowy mountain landscape.
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Adriane Lochner is a Bishkek-based writer.