Toledo Zoo Vet Part of Group to Collar First Snow Leopard in Kyrgyzstan

Posted Nov 25th, 2015 by Andi Norman  Category: Community Interest, General Interests,


The so-called “ghost cat” just became a spot less elusive. During his recent field work with Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization based in New York, Dr. Ric Berlinski, senior veterinarian at Toledo Zoo, helped place a GPS collar on a snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan. This collar which is one of approximately only 35 ever placed is the first ever to be placed on a snow leopard in the former Soviet-block country situated along the Silk Road in central Asia.

Dr. Berlinski was part of a three person team studying the mysterious predator in the Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve located in the Tien Shan mountain range of eastern Kyrgyzstan. The team received notification of animal capture at 5 a.m. on October 26. They geared up at base camp in 10-12 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures and reached the female snow leopard at 11,000 feet up on the mountain at approximately 7 a.m. The animal was immobilized and monitored while under anesthesia. “I did an exam, checked her all over and took a blood sample while Shannon Kachel, the primary investigator on the project, fitted her with a GPS collar that sends out a data point every five hours. We estimated that she was six to seven years old, in excellent health and through accompanying paw prints in the snow, the mother to three cubs approximately a year and a half old.” After the collar was fitted, Dr. Berlinski administered the anesthesia reversal and the newly named Appak Suyuu, a Kyrgyz word meaning “true love,” disappeared back into the rugged terrain.

Since the collar, Panthera has tracked Appak Suyuu’s movements and has learned that in one 24 hour period, she traveled 20 kilometers at 14,000 feet up in the mountains. According to Dr. Berlinski, this collar gives researchers the opportunity to get a true picture of the species in their natural environment, an aspect that has not been a part of previous studies. Panthera is hoping to place three to five more collars next year and Dr. Berlinski hopes he gets to work on the project again. “Only about 100 people have ever had their hands on a snow leopard in the wild. Out of 7.8 billion people on earth, that’s an extremely small but great group to belong to. This was a career-defining moment for me. I was able to be a part of this extraordinary effort because of Toledo Zoo’s commitment to conservation. This project really brings the zoo and wild connection home for me and hopefully for visitors that enjoy the snow leopards on exhibit at the Zoo.”

For more info on this project & other Toledo Zoo conservation programs please visit

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