Dec. 7 - Images of three snow leopards - a mother and her two cubs - have been recorded by a camera trap high in Tajikistan's Pamir Mountains. The conservation group Panthera says the images indicate that a healthy population of the cats may be thriving in the area, despite the presence of hunters. Rob Muir reports.
Snow leopards are among the mose elusive of big cats but Panthera's sequence of images begins with an unintended close-up, as a curious female aproaches the camera for a better look. The Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan are believed to support as many as 300 snow leopards, of a total population of up to 7000 spread throughout central Asia. This leopard made her appearance on a rock ledge in a part of the mountain range where trophy hunting is allowed. And then, her two healthy cubs make an appearance. Despite the threats posed by hunters, and a shrinking habitat brought on by human encroachment, scientists say the leopards' presence is a good sign for the species in a region believed to serve as a corridor between the northern and southern portions of their range. Little is known about the snow leopard in the wild. Gathering information in such inhospitable terrain is difficult so scientists rely on camera traps to do much of the work for them. Panthera has 40 such traps in the Pamirs. Successes are few and far between but the scientists say when images like these appear, it's like Christmas has come early.