Miss PoPsicle and I watched a preview of Nat Geo Wild’s Big Cat Week, and are now trying to decide whether our top favorite big kitty is still the Siberian tiger, as we decided last time, or perhaps now the super-elusive snow leopard.
Then again, we might go with the world’s fastest runner, the cheetah; the jaguar, known to the Mayans as the dark god Huracan (from which we get “hurricane”); or the lions of Africa, whose population has declined by 90 percent over the last 50 years. (Miss PoPsicle tries not to think too much about that.)
The preview episode we watched was about the snow leopards. A team from the Wildlife Conservation Society heads out to Afghanistan with the mission of humanely trapping at least one of these gorgeous felines, checking their health, taking a DNA sample, and putting a radio collar on them so they can be tracked for a year – after which the collar will automatically fall off.
Afghanistan, you’ll recall, is a war zone. In fact, it’s been a war zone as long as anyone can remember. So just getting to where the snow leopards are, in a remote mountain region, is quite an exercise in itself. (The Taliban aren’t too keen on foreign adventurers, and you risk your life just shopping for a replacement radio battery before you even head out of town.)
It’s not giving away too much to say that the team does eventually catch a snow leopard. But the suspense is by no means over. When she wakes up from the anesthetic, the cat will be wobbly for a few hours and she’s in danger as she clambers around on the steep rocky terrain. It’s a risk the team just has to take – it’s urgent to get as much information as possible about the snow leopards if we’re to have a chance of protecting them from an increasingly violent world.
And it’s not just the war. Climate change means temperatures are climbing, which means ice is retreating, so farmers are sending their herds further up the mountains, which means the native wildlife is having a harder time competing with domestic goats, which means snow leopards sometimes attack the domestic goats, which means the farmers don’t like the snow leopards and often shoot them on sight … and so it goes.
And then Miss PoPsicle (right) will decide on her top favorite big kitty of the year.
You and your kitties can decide, too, and you can help to protect all the big cats by being part of National Geographic’s Cause an Uproar.