Conservation, Research and Education Opportunities International

Education and capacity building in safe animal handling, capture, and care techniques for Snow Leopard Trust’s Mongolia Research Assistant

Snow Leopard Trust 

The endangered snow leopard is one of the least studied of the big cats.  Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (Mongolia) and its partner Snow Leopard Trust (USA) launched the first ever long-term ecological study of snow leopards in 2008 in the South Gobi desert of Mongolia. An important component of this study is tracking snow leopards using GPS satellite collars. Snow leopards are immobilized and fitted with collars by highly experienced visiting technicians/scientists. It is imperative that only skilled professionals handle and conduct research on snow leopards, given their low numbers and endangered status. To date, there is no Mongolian citizen who has appropriate training and experience to successfully immobilize snow leopards in Mongolia. This project was the first step in providing extensive training for our Research Associate, Lkhagvasumberel Tomorsukh (Sumbee), to gain the appropriate skills to safely and successfully immobilize snow leopards in Mongolia.

Sumbee observing in Humane Society operating roomThe goal of our project was to increase capacity within Mongolia for snow leopard research and animal handling. Our project’s first objective was for Sumbee to travel to the US for one month in 2014 to 1) build his own skills and understanding of animal care and handling through collaborations with large animal veterinarian personnel; and 2) gain exposure to large felid research and conservation techniques in the US. Our second objective was for Sumbee to strengthen his relationships with Snow Leopard Trust staff and Woodland Park Zoo—a long-term conservation partner of the Trust, and to improve his English language skills.

To gain skills in animal care and handling, Sumbee trained at Sound Equine Veterinary Hospital in Poulsbo, WA, the Seattle Humane Society, and with the Animal Health Department at Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle. He also had the opportunity to learn about cougar conservation with Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel.

As a result of his time at the veterinary clinics, Sumbee was able to participate in multiple procedures that greatly enhanced his understanding and knowledge of animal healthcare and handling. At the zoo, he also learned many methods and protocols on how to handle a variety of animals. With the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sumbee was able to observe cougar conservation work firsthand, including tracking cougars in the Cascade Mountains, Skagit County, WA. ($6,300)