Saturday 29 April 2017

Planet Earth stuns viewers with first ever recording of snow leopards mating in the wild... it's not pleasant

Sunday night's Planet Earth captured the first ever recorded sighting of snow leopards mating in the wild.
Sunday night's Planet Earth captured the first ever recorded sighting of snow leopards mating in the wild.
Only 3,500 snow leopards remain
The male snow leopard is drawn to the scent of the female in heat
Of all the animals the team filmed, the fabled snow leopard was the most elusive

Sasha Brady

In dramatic scenes from Sunday night's Planet Earth Two on BBC, viewers were treated to the first ever recording of snow leopards mating in the wild.

The BBC programme focused on mountains this week, following last week's islands episode. One segment of the show looked at one of the most elusive cats on the planet, living in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth: snow leopards in the high altitude terrains of the Himalayas.

Only 3,500 snow leopards remain
Only 3,500 snow leopards remain

The show's narrator, Sir David Attenborough, described them as "one of the most majestic mountain creatures of all".  He said, "the detail of their lives has long been a mystery" because it's extremely difficult to collect footage of the camera-shy cats.

But the BBC team deployed camera traps along the Kashmir Mountain passes, trigged by heat-sensitivity, to catch brief glimpses of the majestic beasts. Eventually, they lucked out and captured more than they anticipated with the first ever recorded sighting of snow leopards mating in the wild.

It was also the very first time that four of these incredibly rare cats, of which only 3,500 remain in the wild, had been filmed together.

In the clip we saw a female snow leopard protect her young cub, who is still completely dependant on her for survival. The little family unit of mother and cub were put in a potentially fatal situation as they were approached by two male leopards, drawn to the female on heat.

Attenborough informed viewers, "males kill cubs that are not their own".

The male snow leopard is drawn to the scent of the female in heat
The male snow leopard is drawn to the scent of the female in heat

"A fight is inevitable. Soon the mother and cub are trapped between the rivals," he added.

In uncomfortable scenes, the mother was forced to offer herself to the males in order to distract them and protect her cub. She rolled over submissively and they gleefully attacked her, leaving her injured and unable to hunt.

Of all the animals the team filmed, the fabled snow leopard was the most elusive
Of all the animals the team filmed, the fabled snow leopard was the most elusive

Just as viewers recovered from the upsetting scenes, Attenborough cut even deeper by informing fans that the female and her cub were never seen together again.

"Until... A month later. A remote camera was triggered high on a ridge," he teased.

"The female - no longer limping but alone," was spotted on the camera.

Then, Attenborough went on, "an hour after the female has left the camera was triggered again.

"It’s her cub - taking her first steps towards independence."

Most sobering of all is the threat that snow leopards face from humans.

According to a new study, which was published in the journal Biological Conservation, climate change could reduce them to unsustainable numbers in many populations. Rising temperatures, especially in the Himalayas, are expected to leave snow leopards with just one-third of their habitat by 2070.

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