Snow Leopard Safari Supports World Wildlife Fund’s Research
By Nancy DePalma
Not all gifts come in boxes tied with a bow. We have been privileged to help travelers give the gift of travel to family and friends for many years and it has always inspired us, but several years ago we decided to flip that concept….what if we designed a trip that delivered a gift to an important cause – one that is near and dear to our hearts?
That sentiment is what drove us to develop The Quest for the Snow Leopard. It was designed as a way to fund the important research the World Wildlife Fund is doing in Mongolia on snow leopards. The concept is simple: travelers book the journey and join the expedition with the field biologists conducting research and $10,000 per traveler donation is then given directly to WWF.
Jalsa Urubshurow, our founder and CEO, is a passionate conservationist. That drive led him to found the Golden Eagle Festival in western Mongolia nearly two decades ago to keep Kazakh traditions alive, but if you’ve ever met Jalsa, you know he doesn’t let grass grow under his feet. He is always looking for new ways to protect and preserve. For years, he has dreamt of designing a snow leopard expedition to open travelers’ eyes to this extraordinary creature who is threatened with extinction. Our veteran guide, Buyandelger, recently returned from a 16-day snow leopard/wildlife safari and shares his thoughts with us here:
Question: Where do you travel within Mongolia to spot snow leopards
Answer: We visited the Jargalant Khairkhan Mountains in the Hovd province in western Mongolia. We spent seven days there and it felt like a short period of time!
Question: Were you able to spot any snow leopards?
Answer: We were so lucky because we saw four snow leopards! In the past, we’ve visited this region and missed them entirely. Tracking these elusive animals is never easy but as part of their research, WWF has tracking collars on some of the leopards, which means that we have a better idea of where they may be. Two of the leopards we saw were wearing collars, but the other two weren’t collared and they were a mother and her cub!
Question: What is the snow leopard safari experience like?
Answer: It’s exciting! Each morning, we check the satellite information to track the locations of the collared leopards. It’s not foolproof, but it does help us get an idea of where they might be. The WWF’s dedication to their work is inspiring. The local area is also a terrific partner, as our safaris are accompanied by ranger guides who help us navigate the protected land. With their help, we also spotted 170 wild horses, 400 Asiatic wild asses, black tailed gazelles and five to six different species of birds. The snow leopard may be the main attraction but it’s not the only animal you’ll see in this region.
One thing to note is that the snow leopard safari is intended for active travelers. Despite the satellite tags, there is still a fair amount of time spent following the paw prints of the snow leopards. Naturally, leopards traverse mountains and paths that humans typically don’t go, so don’t expect a flat valley trek. Of course, it’s incredibly exhilarating tracking a live animal and it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
Question: What are the accommodations like?
Answer: They are very comfortable. Guests stay in gers, just as the nomads do. We also bring our talented chef from our Three Camel Lodge who creates amazing meals in the middle of the mountains!
Question: What is the main threat to snow leopards in Mongolia?
Answer: As is often the case with dwindling populations, humans tend to be the main predator. Here in Mongolia, snow leopards tend to prey upon herd animals. Nomads and have lost many an animal to a leopard and they are often shot in retaliation for a lost goat or other member of the herd. World Wildlife Fund is helping to educate the locals and we are finding that attitudes are indeed changing thanks to their hard work.
Question: How can an individual support these conservation efforts?
Answer: Travel with us to see these beautiful creatures, of course! Our trip helps support the work of World Wildlife Fund’s Mongolia office’s project to protect snow leopards. Thanks to this recent trip, Nomadic Expeditions donated $20,000 to their efforts. As this trip grows, we will be able to support WWF even further.
Interested in learning more about this trip? View the details here.
If you can’t make it to Mongolia and need a gift for a younger friend or family member, check out the World Wildlife Fund’s Adopt a Snow Leopard Kit, which delivers a plush stuffed animal along with information on the species. It’s a great way to get the younger generation involved in conservation efforts.