Device on leopard yields important data

ISLAMABAD, Nov 29: The satellite-tracking collar fitted on a snow leopard before it was released in the Chitral Gol National Park earlier this month, has fed back unprecedented data on her movements.

Chitral: In this picture released on Wednesday by the Press Information Department, an adult female snow leopard lies on the ground after being sedated by members of the Seattle based Snow Leopard Trust in Chitral--AFP-Dawn.

International experts hid among icy peaks for weeks to trap the 35kg female and attach the high-tech GPS (global positioning system) device.

Since the feline was released back into the wild the device has sent back unprecedented data on its movements and habitat, with plans under way to tag five leopards altogether.

“This is the first time in history that a snow leopard has been fitted with a GPS collar,” Javed Khan, Pakistan programme director of the Seattle-based Snow Leopard Trust, told AFP.

The snow leopard that has been satellite-tagged was captured on Purdum Mali ridge in Pakistan -- Purdum Mali means cave of the snow leopard in the Chitrali dialect.

“It was a fitting place,” said Tom McCarthy, conservation director of the Snow Leopard Trust, which is jointly running a conservation project with the NWFP wildlife department and the World Wildlife Fund.

The team installed 15 `non-invasive’ snares fitted with radio transmitters at isolated locations to capture the elusive animal.

They named the cat Bayad-i-Kohsaar to honour several conservationists who died in a helicopter accident in Nepal in September.The leopard was then fitted with the collar on Nov 17 at the Chitral Gol National Park and released.

The collar will automatically drop off after 13 months.

The team now aims to capture another four snow leopards and tag them.

McCarthy and other conservationists will periodically live in a camp in the Chitral valley until late January to monitor the snaring of the cats, which live at an altitude of around 3,000 metres.

Once the leopards are caught, their age, weight and sex are recorded and the tracking system is fitted before they are released back into the wild.—AFP

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