Background on Mongol
Just for the sake of having all the information here in one place, here is a translation of Severtsov Institute’s March 20 press release.
Captured snow leopard known as Mongol returned to his home territory in Sayano-Shushensky Zapovednik
Severtsov Institute PEE
The first snow leopard ever to be captured and equipped with a satellite-tracking collar has been released to his original habitat, following a course of medical treatment. The snow leopard nicknamed Mongol is being tracked using the Argos satellite tracking system. Data points showing coordinates of the animal’s location will allow his movements to be tracked, as well as enabling study of the structure and size of his territory.
An adult male snow leopard known as Mongol, approximately 10 years of age, was captured on March 13, 2011 within the framework of the “Program to study and monitor snow leopard in Southern Siberia” being conducted by the Russian Academy of Sciences Permanent Expedition under the aegis of the Russian Geographic Society, using Permit #7 from the Russian Environmental Oversight Agency (RosPrirodNadzor) issued on March 4, 2011.
The snow leopard was nicknamed Mongol in 2008 when he was first photographed using camera-traps in Sayano-Shushensky Zapovednik. He is one of two adult male snow leopards living in the zapovednik, and evidence of his presence has been recorded in the area throughout the winter and spring of 2011. In addition to those two, the zapovednik’s population consists of two adult females, one 2.5 year old male and two 1.5 year old animals (male and female). One of the Program’s goals is to explore the animals’ relationships in the area using non-invasive molecular genetic techniques, as was done by the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences with Siberian tigers in Ussuriysky Zapovednik in Primorye.
In 2009 with the help of camera traps, zapovednik staff learned that Mongol had a poacher’s snare around his neck. Later, he was often photographed using the traps without the snare, obviously having managed to free himself.
To capture snow leopards [sic], staff from the Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evolution Problems and Sayano-Shushensky Zapovednik used leg-hold snares equipped with transmitters indicating a snare has been activated.
On March 13, a snow leopard was captured for the first time by researchers. The animal was in the trap for approximately two hours from the moment of capture. The captured animal had scarring from a poacher’s snare on his neck and inflamed wounds on his face (above the left eye and on the cheekbone) and on his shoulders. The animal’s trauma and wounds were easily visible in photographs taken earlier with camera traps on February 27, 2011. Mongol’s wounds were likely incurred as a result of fighting with other snow leopards during mating season and subsequently became inflamed.
Following immobilization, examination, and treatment of the wounds, it was decided to temporarily move the animal to a cage (“zhivolovushka”, sized 3.0m x 1.5m x 1.5m high) for additional treatment, and on March 14 a request was submitted to RosPrirodNadzor seeking approval for Mongol’s temporary transfer to the expedition’s base camp at Bolshoy On in Khakassiya. Transfer of the animal to base camp for ongoing treatment was permitted with the stipulation that the animal was to be kept in a larger enclosure. After receiving the necessary permissions on March 15, the animal was brought to the base camp and placed in a large enclosure (4m x 4m x 2 m high) containing a wooden shelter.
Immediately following his capture, the wounds were treated with a healing salve and he was injected with 10% Baytril (in order to lower the possibility of infectious processes, primarily bacterial or mycoplasmal in origin). Baytril injections were accomplished using a blowpipe from a distance.
On March 18 when he was again sedated, his wounds were treated, and he was injected with Baytril. The animal’s condition was satisfactory and there was no cause for concern.
Mongol was equipped with a Russian-made (by privately held ES-PAS) GPS-ARGOS satellite-tracking collar. These types of collars have proved their effectiveness in working with Siberian tiger, polar bear, beluga whale, northern reindeer, and a number of other mammal species.
These collars were manufactured specifically for snow leopards and weigh 600g (approximately 1.5% of the bodyweight of an adult animal) and have a 1.5 year operating life expectancy. By weight, these collars are 1.5 times lighter than those collars used by American researchers conducting satellite-monitoring of snow leopards in Pakistan (http://www.blog.snowleopard.org). They are not equipped with USW transmitters, which prevents the already minimal opportunity for poachers to track the animal, and the signal is directly transmitted to the satellite. Collars of this size do not affect the animal’s ability to hunt and do not change natural behavior.
On March 19, the next day, (following the animal’s recovery and time for sedating medications used to immobilize the animal to leave its system), Mongol was returned to Sayano-Shushensky Zapovednik and, in the presence of a Krasnoyarsk Krai representative from RosPrirodNadzor, was set free that the place of his capture. The animal exited his transit crate and set off into the mountains with great leaps. The first data from his collar regarding his movements have already been recorded.
Translation by Jennifer Castner