16 November 2006
WWF, The Snow Leopard Trust, and NWFP Wildlife Department are launching a new study in Pakistan on 17th November 2006 that will make use of cutting-edge technology by placing up to 5 GPS radio-collars on snow leopards in and near Chitral Gol National Park. The new GPS collars the team will be using can record the exact position of the cat many times each day, then store the information or send it to the researchers via satellite links.
The Trust has been actively developing other high-tech research methods for snow leopards to monitor population size and trends, including trap-cameras and pioneering work on genetic finger-printing for the species. Dr. McCarthy, Science and Conservation Director for the Snow Leopard Trust, states that ''Even with the successes of these new methods, there remain a number of questions that can only be addressed through detailed studies involving radio-telemetry. Answering these questions is critical if we are to conserve these amazing animals. Our findings will also help to identify ways of reducing conflicts between herders and leopards, since depredation on livestock is a source of economic hardship to the people and results in a major threat to the cats. This new study will be of great benefit to our conservation efforts.'' Ten years ago Dr. Tom McCarthy placed the first satellite radio-collar on a snow leopard in Mongolia. That was also the last snow leopard to be studied using any type of radio-telemetry.
The radio-collaring project will be conducted as a partnership between Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) Wildlife Department, WWF-Pakistan, and the Snow Leopard Trust. It will be done in conjunction with a Large Carnivore Study in Chitral Gol funded by the GEF/World Bank Protected Areas Management Project (PAMP). Funding for the radio-collaring aspects of the work has been provided by donors in the USA through a generous matching grant from the Felidae Conservation Fund.
WWF and The Snow Leopard Trust is well situated to conduct the studies, since they have been working in northern Pakistan for more than a decade and have a skilled local staff to successfully see the project through. Dr. McCarthy, Dr. Javed Khan and Jaffar will be in Chitral Gol National Park for the months of November and December working alongside NWFP and WWF biologists to initiate the study and get the collars placed on the leopards.