When Mongolian herder D. Ganbat and his family came out of their ger (the nomadic tent where they live) on November 19, they were shocked to see a young snow leopard cub curled up on the roof of their home!
The Ganbat family had stored a bag of meat on the roof of the ger, thus unknowingly attracting the young cat. The heat rising up from the ger offered warmth where the cub could fall asleep following his meal. The Ganbat family found him resting contentedly, seemingly unaware of their presence.
The family used a cell phone to call the local herders’ association for help. A team led by the governor of the association arrived at the Ganbat family’s ger and, after several attempts at coaxing the cub down, were able to safely capture him. The cub was then transported to the base of the mountains just a few kilometers away and was safely released.
According to the Snow Leopard Conservancy’s partner in Mongolia, Dr. B. Munkhtsog, the cub was in good health upon being found. Assuming his mother is also healthy, he will likely be reunited with her.
Before recent conservation work in Mongolia focused on the snow leopard, it is likely the little cub would have been killed if he’d found himself in this situation. Herders saw the cats as a threat and therefore would have used the opportunity to kill him, not save him. However, since the mid-1990s much work has been done by Snow Leopard Conservancy, WWF Mongolia and Institute of Biology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences to support the conservation of snow leopards and change local attitudes toward them.
This incident indicates that herder attitudes are changing, and that they can now see snow leopards as a viable part of their community. These changing attitudes gave this little cub the chance to live out a full life in the mountains of Mongolia.
*Image taken with cell phone by D. Ganbat and family