A Rugged Adventure in Search of Snow Leopards

By Byron Weckworth, Ph.D.
Former Director, Snow Leopard Program and Former Director, Conservation Genetics

Snow leopard

In late June, our team completed an incredible journey: the first ever snow leopard survey in Myanmar. In fact, it was the first survey of any type for the high elevation ranges of this northernmost point of the country.

We trekked from the frontier town of Puta-O, through the jungles and into the high reaches of Mt. Hkakabo Razi National Park, covering hundreds of miles on foot. Up and down steep slopes, we looked for snow leopard sign, collecting scats and setting up 80 camera traps to not only determine if the elusive ghost cats call Myanmar home, but to also see who their neighbors might be and what else dwells in this remote corner of the globe.


We set the first camera on May 22nd and the last a month after that. These will be left out through the summer—an ideal time to capture images, as the receding snow leaves fresh green growth that will attract wild ungulates and the carnivores that prey on them.

On September 1st, the two senior rangers from our team, Asin and Dawgyi, will begin collecting the cameras and returning them to Puta-O. From there, the treasured images will be sent onward to me for analysis and will hopefully answer our main question: Do snow leopards live in Myanmar?

As we anxiously await the results in the coming weeks and months, we will be taking you along our adventure with retrospective blog posts describing the people, culture and stories from our expedition. We’ll touch on the dangers—leeches, avalanches, and steep slopes, to name a few—of remote mountain field work; the secluded Tibetan village of Dahawndum; and the amazing flora and fauna.

Stay tuned!

For more information on Panthera's Snow Leopard Program, click here.