Feedback from visiting wildlife watching tourists:
We’ve just received a wonderful write-up and photo from Joyce Li, aged 12, whose dream it was to see a Snow Leopard. In October her dream came true in the Valley of the Cats and she writes about her experience:
The First Encounter
“In October 2018, I went to Angsai (Namsei) along with my parents, to look for the elusive snow leopard. This is a simple recount of my first encounter with this mysterious big cat.
On the second day of our trip, we woke up at 6:00 am, washed, downed some porridge, and we were off. It was snowing outside, with hares popping up in front of our car lights. They froze whenever we passed, too terrified to move.
About an hour had passed, and the sky had lightened up, and rays of sunlight peeked through the mountains. The snow blanketed the slopes and we searched them for any sign of a big cat. We even asked a local if he’d spotted one. He said that he had seen a carcass of a dead sheep around here, killed by a predator, and we continued searching. We came across quite a few herds of blue sheep and white-lipped deer, but no snow leopard. We decided to move to a new location. Suddenly, Yixi, our guide, started running up the slopes, and we followed him, scrambling up the mountainside. When he stopped, we caught up to him, Yixi said that he thought he had spotted a large animal feeding off a dead sheep. We were buzzing with excitement. But it was only a large dog, picking off the scrap bits of meat.
With no more signs of anything interesting, we decided to stop by Yixi’s cousin’s and have a nice cup of tea. After resting up, we went looking for the snow leopard again, and asked Yixi’s cousin for some help on the walkie talkie. Yixi drove us along the dirt road again, and I fell asleep.
I was already awake when mom called, and still deciding whether to snooze for a few minutes more, but when I heard the words “snow leopard”, all thought of another nap disappeared. Yixi came rushing back to us (he was out searching for snow leopards while we rested in the car) and told us that his cousin had spotted one across the valley. We sped along the small dirt road to the spot where the snow leopard was last found. We raced up the mountain, panting and out of breath, and threw our equipment down. It took a LOT of searching for us to spot the snow leopard, it was so well camouflaged on the rocks, with its grey and white pelt.
The snow leopard seemed quite lazy and full, because when a herd of blue sheep came by, it made no move to hunt, instead lounging on a rock. A few minutes later of cameras clicking and admiring the big cat, the King of the Snow Mountains decided to take a little nap, and disappeared behind the rocks. We waited for another hour, and the sky had turned dark. It didn’t reappear, so we went home too, to a warm dinner.”
The Second Encounter
“It was our third day in Namsei, and we were up in the mountains, searching again for the mysterious snow leopard. We parked outside Yixi’s cousin’s house, watching them milk their yak and collecting their dung for fueling fires. Someone had spotted a red fox up the mountain, and we rushed to see. We were snapping away at the little creature, until Yixi yelled “Sa!” which means snow leopard in Tibetan. The poor fox was suddenly not the center of attention anymore. We scrambled to follow Yixi, and set up our equipment. There were two of them! They were a little far away, but we could see their big furry heads poking up. Sometimes a fluffy tail would appear and wave around. An hour later, they went down the mountain to somewhere we couldn’t see. We tried searching for them again, but with no success.
We moved to a new part of the valley, and waited an entire four hours for a snow leopard to appear. No luck. Not even when we spotted three herds of blue sheep, the snow leopard’s favorite snack. So after a while, we just started to eat snacks and not really bother looking. About twenty minutes later of infinite boredom and listening to dad’s observations of blue sheep and their horns and markings, Mr. Puma, a local guide for another group (we call him because he was wearing a puma jacket), drove up the little dirt road (you could hardly call it a road, path more like it), and shouted that the two snow leopard siblings we saw in the morning were spotted again, on the same mountain, but this time closer.
We descended the slopes as fast as we could, trying not to let large piles of yak manure get in our way, and scrambled in to our car.
When we arrived, there seemed to be nothing in sight, but two little ears gave the snow leopards’ hiding place away. The two siblings were having a very nice afternoon snooze. We waited, and waited, and waited for them to stir. A while later, a big furry paw raised, and playfully cuffed it’s sibling on the head. A few seconds later, the paw disappeared. When it reappeared again, this time a paw and one of the snow leopard’s heads, it was to very excited rapid clicking from our cameras. Soon after they’d woken up, the snow leopards were play fighting. They also sprayed and rubbed rocks to make what we guessed were border marks. We captured photos and videos of them digging holes, then pooping in them, which was also a form of marking their territory, as we later learned.
It was getting dark, and all too soon, we had to go. Apparently the snow leopards agreed, because they climbed back to their hiding spot. It had been an amazing day, and I was literally dancing on the rocks.
After dinner, we visited the Research Station to meet a volunteer who’s coming here today, who has lived in Qinghai for a year, studying wildlife and their behavior. When we told the researchers we had seen two young snow leopards, they wowed and congratulated us. I asked the volunteer some questions on snow leopard behavior, and she confirmed that the snow leopards were indeed marking their territory by pooping and spraying. We also learned that young snow leopard siblings, no matter what gender they are, can stay together for a few months after becoming independent from their mother. I had once thought that only females will stay together, because males will be aggressive towards each other, as adult males often are.
Another amazing and fruitful day in the Valley of Cats!”
March 10th, 2019
“Our time in Valley of the Cats far surpassed even my highest expectations; a breathtakingly rugged and awe-inspiring landscape where man and beast not only co-exist but thrive. The success of the community project is testament to this harmonious relationship and respect for the environment. And the icing on the cake, well our very own Snow Leopard sighting of course, not to mention some superb encounters with Wolves, a Eurasian Lynx and a plethora of other mammals and birds. A naturalists paradise.
An exemplary community-based ecotourism and conservation project.”
Dan Brown, UK
“The Valley of the Cats is an absolutely amazing place to visit: stunning, varied scenery in every direction; an abundance of mammals (herds of Blue Sheep [we counted up to 120 at one spot] and magnificent White-lipped Deer [the largest herd we saw was c. 80 individuals!], chubby Himalayan Marmots, adorable Glover’s Pikas, Red Foxes, Wolves and – most importantly – very good chances of seeing Snow Leopard!) and some very special birds (e.g. the stunning Lammergeier is common!); and wonderful, hospitable local host families. I’m already longing to return!”
Professor Per Alström, Sweden
The reaction of Professor Per Alström after seeing, and videoing, a Snow Leopard in the Valley of the Cats.
“100% adventure-packed mammal and birding site! Truly unforgettable stunning scenery and a cultural experience that should be on every keen birder’s bucketlist!”
Irene Dy, Philippines
“As a professional animal illustrator, I had the pleasure of traveling to your area of the National Park and I was very impressed by the variety of wildlife and the beauty of these landscapes. But also meet your team from your NGO, and see the actions you take for the environment in collaboration with the breeders of the region: a very good example of collaboration and harmonious life with the great fauna! I take beautiful lessons of life and relationships to the wilderness!”
Yves Fagniart, Wildlife watercolor artist, Belgium
Yves Fagniart, 野生动物水彩画家, 比利时
“The experience of staying with the local and very friendly yak herder families, way off the beaten track, while enjoying world-class scenery and unique wildlife is one of the most memorable of my life. The fact that I spotted a Snow Leopard slowly making its way up a snowy ridge one morning (from the homestay!) and found a completely new breeding area for Koslov’s (Tibetan) Bunting just shows what is possible in a few days in this wonderful corner of the planet.”
Jocko Hammar, Sweden
Jocko Hammar, 瑞典
Jocko Hammar and Chris Campion shortly after seeing their first Snow Leopard in The Valley of the Cats.
写于Jocko Hammer 和 Chris Campion 第一次在“大猫谷”看到雪豹不久之后
“Few places remain where you get a sense of intact nature. A strong presence of apex predators, such as the Snow Leopard, is a sign of a healthy ecosystem. And this place is not just a wildlife experience – the people, the landscape and the wildlife made a lasting impression on me. What a privilege it was to experience The Valley of the Cats.” – Tormod Amundsen, Biotope
“只有少数地方能让你感受到纯净的大自然。雪豹等顶级食肉兽的大量存在是生态系统健康的标志。在这个地方，我不仅仅获得了野生动物的观察体验。这里的人民、风光和野生动物都让我记忆深刻。能体会“大猫谷”的美丽是多么的荣幸！” — Tormod Amundsen, Biotope