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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Guidelines for Telemetry Studies on Snow Leopards

Johansson, Orjan; Kachel, Shannon; Weckworth, Byron


Simple Summary Satellite collars and other tracking (telemetry) devices fitted on wild animals can provide insights into species' habitat requirements, movements, space and resource use, thermoregulation, life history, and demographics. Such information is particularly important for the conservation and management of elusive and threatened species like the snow leopard (Panthera uncia). Deploying tracking devices, however, exposes targeted and non-targeted animals to non-trivial risks-for example, trapping-induced injuries or death, adverse reactions to immobilizing drugs, and physiological and behavioral impacts from inappropriately-sized collars. The implicit ethical considerations and tradeoffs are not always obvious, and are often underappreciated by researchers and managers responsible for conducting or approving proposed telemetry projects. Here, we aim to (1) help researchers, managers, and permitting agencies better understand if and when the risks inherent in telemetry studies are ethically justifiable; and (2) help researchers develop efficient and ethical procedures for planning telemetry studies and associated capturing and handling protocols for snow leopards. Telemetry studies that are undertaken with clearly-articulated purpose, well-vetted and comprehensive protocols, and a sustained commitment of resources can play a vital role in conservation. Animal-borne tracking devices have generated a wealth of new knowledge, allowing us to better understand, manage and conserve species. Fitting such tracking devices requires that animals are captured and often chemically immobilized. Such procedures cause stress and involve the risk of injuries and loss of life even in healthy individuals. For telemetry studies to be justifiable, it is vital that capture operations are planned and executed in an efficient and ethical way. Project objectives must be clearly articulated to address well-defined knowledge gaps, and studies designed to maximize the probability of achieving those goals. We provide guidelines for how to plan, design, and implement telemetry studies with a special emphasis on snow leopards that are typically captured using foot snares. We also describe the necessary steps to ensure that captures are conducted safely, and with minimal stress to animals.


animal welfare; capture; collar; felid; GPS; immobilization; Panthera uncia; trapping

Published in

2022, volume: 12, number: 13, article number: 1663
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Snow Leopard Trust
Kachel, Shannon
Weckworth, Byron

UKÄ Subject classification

Other Veterinary Science

Publication Identifiers


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