Snow Leopard Trust: Preservation Efforts in Mongolia

Snow Leopard Trust: Preservation Efforts in Mongolia

MIR Corporation has been based in Seattle since its founding in 1986, so we’re always interested in ways that our city connects with the destinations we love. One connection is that Seattle is a Sister City to Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. But a less public connection has to do with the “ghost of the mountains,” the elusive and endangered snow leopard.

Seattle’s Mongolia ConnectionIt’s 5,521 miles from Seattle to Dalanzadgad, capital of South Gobi aimag (province), the largest aimag in Mongolia. A dusty little town of about 15,000 people, Dalanzadgad is the jumping-off place for travelers exploring the Gobi Desert, because its airport has connections with Ulaanbaatar, the capital.

From Dalanzadgad, you have to load up into 4x4s and drive something like 200 rugged miles of barely discernible track to arrive in the arid Tost Mountains, where a Seattle nonprofit has a base camp.

Here, in this remote high desert wilderness, experts from Seattle’s Snow Leopard Trust trap, measure, and examine wild snow leopards before fitting them with GPS tracking collars and releasing them. This long-term study of the beautiful cats has followed 16 collared snow leopards through the mountains of the South Gobi, learning about their range, their habits, their food and their families.

Set strategically along well-traveled cat-trails on rocky ledges and mountaintops, several stop-motion cameras capture photos of the cats as they go about their business. The photos are sent back to Seattle to be analyzed and admired.

Snow Leopard Trust also partners with herders in the area to protect the cats from poaching, and to fund reparations if sheep or goats are killed by a snow leopard.

Back in 20th century Seattle, a few years before MIR founder Douglas Grimes fell in love with Russia, Snow Leopard Trust founder Helen Freeman fell in love with a pair of snow leopards she met at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Today MIR brings travelers to the South Gobi Desert, just across the mountains from where Snow Leopard Trust’s researchers sleep under the stars on the flinty gravel of the high desert.

You just never know where your love is going to take you.

The wide open spaces of Mongolia's Flaming Cliffs. Photo credit: Andrew Barron

Mongolia’s Flaming Cliffs in the South Gobi Desert, near cat country
Photo credit: Andrew Barron

Travel to Mongolia with MIRMIR can’t take you to the remote and secluded site where Snow Leopard Trust experts study quietly among the nearly invisible traces of the “ghosts of the mountains,” but we can take you to Dalazadgad and on to the sandy red hills of the South Gobi Desert.

A visit to the Gobi Desert is included in MIR’s small group tours:

 

(Top photo: The presence of a snow leopard cub in the Tost Mountains of the South Gobi shows that Snow Leopard Trust’s preservation programs are working. Photo credit: NCF India / Snow Leopard Trust)

PUBLISHED: April 15, 2015

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