I have been enthralled with motion activated camera traps since they first came on the market over 10 years ago. In fact I wrote This Article in 2011 of how I discovered a host of unknown predators prowling the outskirts of Homer Alaska after setting up my first game camera at a moose carcass. Game cameras allow us to see even the shiest creatures, even at night, that would never show themselves to a human. One of the most elusive creatures on the planet is the snow leopard. I remember several years ago when the World Wildlife Fund, which focuses on snow leopard conservation throughout their range, discovered the presence of a snow leopard in the mountains of Sichuan Province, China, in a region where they were thought to have been eradicated, from an image captured with a camera trap. The presence of this imperiled species caused this area to be viewed as critical habitat.
Check out the below video that I helped collect using some camera traps that i donated to Hemis National park while on a recent expedition to see snow leopards. I have photographed wildlife my entire life and I have never been this thrilled with anything I have ever captured!
The truly exciting aspect of using camera traps to capture snow leopards is the recent emergence of facial recognition technology using artificial intelligence by Microsoft. The Jammu and Kasmir Wildlife Department is currently gathering groundbreaking information on snow leopards in Hemis National Park using traditional wildlife collars, but the park currently has installed 600 game cameras to gather even more information. With the help of this amazing, state of the art facial recognition technology, simple game cameras will become the new, accurate method to research these elusive animals in a totally non-intrusive way.. Check out this cool article to learn more about the technical aspects of the snow leopard conservation project led by Microsoft and the Snow Leopard Trust.
I was extremly fortunate to have become a part of an expedition team which works with the wildlife department, and was able to spend time with the now famous snow leopard expert Khenrab Phuntsog who guided the BBC for Planet Earth 2, and also the crew of Hostile Planet. Khenrab and his team are perhaps the worlds leading experts on snow leopard management and tracking, with 14 years of experience working with these mysterious and misunderstood creatures. Here is Khenrab and our team exploring prime snow leopard habitat- what a thrill and honor to join him in his element
Here is Khenrab talking about setting up the game camera on a snow leopard trail… SO COOL!!!!
Check out what this camera captured in the following weeks! WOW!
Snow leopards face many threats throughout their range including poaching, loss of prey due to overgrazing by livestock, habitat loss, climate change, and retribution killing when they prey on livestock. Snow leopards are also almost impossible to observe and study in the wild because they are so elusive and live in such remote, rugged country. These developments in snow leopard research will help us save these amazing animals with a relatively inexpensive and humane method. I am excited to return to Hemis next winter, and spend more time with Khenrab and his dedicated team of snow leopard protectors.