06 May 2017

SNOW LEOPARDS - the Tibetan Plateau expedition


China, the Tibetan plateau, April 2017 

Snow Leopards are among the most rare and least seen mammals in the world. For nature enthusiasts it is probably the most desired mammal to see. Needless to say I was incredibly excited when I was invited by Terry Townshend of Birding Beijing to be a part of a Snow Leopard pilot tour to a newly discovered area for this amazing species. The vast Chinese Tibetan Plateau probably holds many undiscovered secrets, and among them is an area that seems to be heavily favoured by the Snow Leopards. This following brief blogpost is based on a 14 day visit in China, where 5 days was spent at an undisclosed location between 4000 and 5000 meters above sea level.
The video gives an account of our trip and sightings. During 4 days of active searching for Snow Leopards we had three Snow Leopard sightings! This is without any pre-scouting. Also: every Yak herder we met showed us Snow Leopard footage on their mobile phones. Blue Sheep and Yak seemed to be the Snow Leopars favourite prey.

Biotope´s work always revolve around nature, birding, wildlife and how this relates to both nature conservation and nature based tourism. This is also the reason for our invitation to be a part of this very early stage project around Snow Leopards and the establishment of China´s first national park. Taking the outmost care is needed when such an amazing and rich area will slowly become a national park. I am very gratefull for the invitation by Terry Townshend and Zhao Xiang who runs the Snow Leopard project for the chinese NGO ShanShui Conservation Centre. It is great to hear how deeply they involve the local communities of Yak herders and their clear goals of a sustainable development of the national park. At the moment the area is only accessible with a permit.

The Valley of the cats quickly became the name we used. During our days there we explored countless mountain slopes and side valleys. We stayed at the local Yak hers Sen and his family. The generosity and friendliness from everyone we met throughout our trip was amazing. A heartfelt thanks goes out to our new friends Sen and Yak herder Chairennima. The Snow Leopard expedition team was Terry Townshend from Birding Beijing, Marie Luise Ng, Will Soar from Rare Bird Alert and Tormod Amundsen from Biotope.

Stunning views of Snow Leopard was of course the highlight of the trip, but the birding was absolutely breathtaking as well. Lammergeier and Wallcreeper was common. We could easily have 10 Wallcreepers in a day, even without actively searching for them. The selection of Redstarts was brilliant. White-crowned Water Redstart was highlight, as was superb views of Blue-fronted Redtarts. On several occasions we had Ibisbill. A complete list of birds and mammals will be added to this blogpost soon. Since work at the Biotope office is very busy these days this blogpost is rather short, but we do hope the video provides a good insight to the project. The Snow Leopard project is in progress and we hope to be a part of it in the future as well! Stay tuned...

 Blue-fronted Redstart
White-browed Rosefinch, Ibisbill, Tibetan Partridge, Clover´s Pika, Daurian Jackdaw, Solitary Snipe

Team photo, upper right: Yak herder Sen, Terry Townshend and Yak herder Chairennima
Team photo lower left: Marie Louise Ng, Will Soar, Terry Townshend and Tormod Amundsen

The Snow Leopard video is also available on Biotope´s Facebook

Find Terry Townshend on twitter @BirdingBeijing and www.birdingbeijing.com

Thanks for following our work! 
Twitter: @BiotopeOffice 

Tormod Amundsen / Biotope, April 2017