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Program Big Cats Initiative

  • Big cat trapper Boone Smith and his team in Afghanistan are searching for a snow leopard, the world's most elusive cat. Seeking out clues like tracks, scat, and scrape marks, the team is hot on the trail of this mysterious big cat.

     

    This clip is from National Geographic's Big Cat Week episode "Snow Leopard of Afghanistan." Big Cat Week is part of the Big Cats Initiative. To learn more, visit the Big Cats Initiative website.

    1. How is global warming affecting snow leopards?

      Warmer temperatures are causing glacial melting, allowing shepherds to graze their flocks at higher altitudes. This is pushing native popuations of ibex and snow leopards into smaller areas at the tops of the mountains.

    2. What clues does Boone look for to tell him that snow leopards are in the area?

      Boone is looking for tracks and scrapes. The team also finds hair and scent mark rocks.

    3. Why is it challenging to track snow leopards?

      It is estimated that there are no more than 200 snow leopards in all of Afghanistan. Snow leopards are elusive—scientists don't know much about them. Furthermore, they are solitairy animals. They travel alone over very large areas.

    4. Why is it bad to find fresh scat?

      Fresh scat indicates a snow leopard was recently in the area. Snow leopards have very large territories and patrol these territories by running large loops around their perimeters. If a tracker finds fresh scat, it means that the cat will not be returning to that place until it finishes running its loop, a process that takes about three weeks. It is better to find old scat because it means the cat will be returning soon.

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