Tajikistan snow leopards, video

This video is about Tajikistan: a camera captures a rare wild snow leopard.

From Wildlife Extra:

Snow leopard cubs – A video from Tajikistan

Snow leopards thriving in Tajikistan

December 2012. Known as the ‘Roof of the World,’ the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan are situated at the intersection of several of Asia’s greatest mountain ranges, and fittingly may represent some of the richest habitat for ‘Asia’s Mountain Ghost’ – the elusive snow leopard.

300 snow leopards in the Pamirs

Today, as many as 300 of the remaining 3,500-7,000 wild snow leopards are thought to live in the Tajik Pamirs – an area which provides a potentially critical link between the southern and northern regions of the snow leopard’s range, and may serve as a vital genetic corridor for the species.

Given the potential of this region as one of the world’s last snow leopard strongholds, big cat charity Panthera recently carried out two extensive camera trap surveys in the Pamir Mountains, including one in Tajikistan’s Jartygumbez Istyk River region in collaboration with University of Delaware graduate student Shannon Kachel and the Tajik Academy of Sciences.

While reviewing photos from the survey’s 40 camera traps, Panthera field staff recently uncovered incredible new images of a snow leopard mother and her two cubs, which they have made into a video. The playful cubs are shown licking and pawing icicles and attempting to climb a rock. Along with this entertaining footage, also included are stunning images of the snow leopard mother and one of her cubs inspecting the camera trap, their quizzical faces pressed up against the camera lens.

Healthy population?

In addition to this special glimpse into the hidden lives of snow leopards, this footage also potentially indicates that a healthy, breeding snow leopard population exists in the Jartygumbez Istyk River region of Tajikistan, within a well-managed trophy hunting concession. These data are particularly positive for the region’s snow leopard population when paired with evidence gathered in the summer of 2011 of snow leopard cubs (stealing a camera trap) in the Zorkul region of Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains (a collaborative project with Fauna and Flora International), approximately 100 km south of the Jartygumbez Istyk River region.

Scat analysis

Panthera scientists are reviewing all of the camera trap photos from the surveys to assess the size of the region’s snow leopard population and the significance of the Pamirs as a part of the snow leopard’s corridor. In addition, Panthera’s field staff and partners have collected snow leopard scat samples for diet analysis, are conducting surveys to evaluate the abundance of snow leopard prey species and are also assessing the management and impact of local trophy hunting concessions and nature reserves, which target snow leopard prey species.

Poaching and unsustainable hunting of snow leopard prey

Panthera’s scientists have identified poaching and unsustainable hunting of snow leopard prey, including ibex and Marco polo sheep, as a major threat to Tajikistan’s snow leopards. To address this issue, our field staff are working with local villagers and a trophy “prey” hunting expert to analyze the infrastructure and training needed to establish a community-based hunting program of prey species.

Community based programme

Scheduled to begin in 2013, this program aims to better regulate the current unsustainable hunting of ibex and Marco polo sheep to conserve Tajikistan’s snow leopards, while bringing direct economic benefits to local villagers through tourism operations. Ultimately, if successful, Panthera hopes to use this community-based prey hunting program model to implement similar operations in other Central Asian countries.

Large-billed reed warbler nesting site discovered

Large-billed reed warblerFrom the BBC today:

‘Lost’ large-billed reed warbler breeding site found

By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

A breeding site of the large-billed reed warbler has been found in Tajikistan by scientists.

The warbler has been described as the world’s least known bird; after a single specimen was found in 1867 the species was not seen again until 2006.

Since then a handful of live birds and museum specimens have been identified, and a possible breeding site found in Afghanistan.

But the new site is the first confirmed breeding location of the species.

Details of the new breeding site are reported for the first time in the Journal of Avian Biology.

The first large-billed reed warbler (Acrocephalus orinus) was found in Himachal Pradesh, northwest India in 1867, though its validity was questioned for decades until DNA analysis this century confirmed it as a new species.

From 1867 till 2006, the bird was not sighted again in the wild, until a live bird was trapped in Thailand in 2006.

Two years later, the same individual was recaptured, as was another in another location in Thailand.

Little else was known about the large-billed warbler until 11 birds held in museums were also found to be of the species, some caught in Afghanistan in 1937 and one juvenile trapped in Kazakhstan in 1900.

These specimens suggested that the large-billed reed warbler might breed somewhere in the southeastern part of Central Asia.

Last year, a team of researchers believed they had discovered a breeding site of the enigmatic warbler in Afghanistan, after catching 15 birds which DNA analysis confirmed as Acrocephalus orinus.

However, they were not able to confirm that the species was breeding in the area, according to internationally agreed criteria.

Also, the researchers have yet to confirm the details of their find by publishing their records in the scientific literature.

Around the same time, ornithologists Dr Raffael Aye and Mr Manuel Schweizer of the Society for Field Ornithology and Bird Protection in Central Asia, and Dr Stephan Hertwig of the Natural History Museum in Bern, Switzerland found another significant discovery elsewhere in Asia.

The researchers discovered eight individual large-billed reed warblers living at three different riverine woodland sites in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan.

They confirmed the birds are breeding at one, the first such confirmed breeding site of the species since its discovery by science.

“One of four adult birds caught in Vezdara displayed a large brood patch, suggesting that it was breeding,” explains Mr Schweizer, who is also a PhD student at the Natural History Museum in Bern.

“Also in Vezdara, two Acrocephalus warblers were observed around a group of bushes on 18 July and could be caught later and three rectrices on one tail side were taken for DNA analyses.

“On the 19th, they were again observed around the same bushes, this time missing rectrices on one side of their tails and feeding two fledglings.

“The fledglings were still extremely weak flyers and hardly able to fly from one bush to another.”

Although the team have been aware of the breeding site since last year, they have had to wait till now to publish details of their discovery in the scientific literature, and hence make it public.

“This finding was of course a big surprise, as the large-billed reed warbler was termed as one of the least known bird species of the world before,” Mr Schweizer told the BBC.

“Without further survey, it is impossible to say how many birds may survive in the wild.”

“Further surveys during the breeding season are needed in order to identify the limits of the species’ breeding range and to deepen our understanding of its population history and conservation status.”

See also here.