I have finished searching for snow leopards for the full month of February in the high mountain region of the Indian Himalayas. I saw a total of 21 snow leopards, which is truly remarkable since I feel blessed to have had even one sighting in my lifetime. Last week we hiked several miles up a valley to chase reports of a mother and two 10 month old cubs resting on a sunny slope. We watched them for five hours, until darkness set in and the temperatures plummeted. After sleeping in the hot sun, the cubs played for an hour, then the family began their evening and nighttime hunting excursion. The audio in the video is me and the legendary snow leopard conservationist Khenrab Phuntsag, of the Jammu and Kasmir Wildlife Department, who was our chief spotter and tracker. We talked about the miracle of mother snow leopards ability to raise cubs in such a harsh, difficult ecosystem. Check out the footage! I filmed this with a Sony A9 camera and a 200-600mm lens with a 2x extender. They were 500 meters away.
As with polar bears, which act as a charismatic umbrella species that brings attention to climate change and other human-caused damages to our earth, snow leopards can hopefully draw attention to the plight of the Asian high mountain region. I can feel a “snow leopard fever” beginning to spread.
I feel a powerful obsession with snow leopards, which started deep inside my soul more than 20 years ago. This quote from Ladakhi village Headman Sonam Dorjay speaks to me: “Every time I see one [snow leopard], for the first few seconds I feel an electric shock running through my body. It is uncontrollable. I can become detached again after a while, but the initial strong tingling reaction always happens. This animal does seem to have a special magnetism and power. I have seen many snow leopards, and my first response is always the same and always as strong. It has never become weaker over time and more experience with snow leopards.” I couldn’t agree more. My dreams are filled with snow leopards in the desolate corners of one of the most beautiful and hostile and magical places I have been lucky enough to immerse myself in.
Snow leopards are considered a species of high priority by World Wildlife Fund. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE