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Mongolia doesn't support OT project financing terms
July 19 (Business-Mongolia) Business-Mongolia exclusively covered issues revolving around the world renowned Oyu tolgoi. It has been several times that we have reported on project financing for the 2nd phase of the project. The dispute is still ongoing despite the shipment commencement. Erdenes OT, Executive Director Ts.Sedvanchig himself made it clear that there are at least 22 issues to resolved between the shareholders.
One of the major issue besides the cost overrun, or interconnected issue, is the project financing. The project is already exceeded by USD2 billion from its planned initial investment. The latest figure we have is USD6.49 billion. Phase II + expansion is going to cost the project USD11 billion. OT LLC told the press that Phase I and II net cost will be USD13 billion. However, our research indicated that we are looking at overall cost of USD18 billion including the investment from revenue.
Rio Tinto is seeking to raise the needed investment from international financial institutions, commercial and export, import banks. We have mentioned many times about the issue on our website if you click on the tag at the very below (Rio Tinto, IFC, OT LLC, Oyu Tolgoi). Each entity would provide USD200-300 million and up to USD4 billion overall. Rio Tinto is also coming into play as a lender besides being a shareholder. It believes that it would create competition among commercial banks to lower the interest rate. However, the prolonged project financing that has been under discussion for over 3 years hasn't been closed yet. Bankers have convened several times during these years and re-started the negotiation again after Rio Tinto took over Turquoise Hill Resources.
Despite the cost born over 3 years for lawyers, financial advisers and due diligence, over USD50 million is spent, Rio Tinto still pushes for strategic move of involving as many parties as possible to the project. Mining Minister D.Gankhuyag was clear on the issue. We do not support it, especially when the over spending on cost is not justified and proved. Still, Rio Tinto is pushing with its proud A3 rating from Moody's. Also, it promises the Mongolian government that the project financing will greatly benefit the country's overall investor confidence and lower rate of shareholder loan stated in the Investment Agreement, 6.5+LIBOR.
Mongolian government looked at the project financing terms and financial models, and it is not happy about it. The charge from Rio Tinto will exceed USD3 billion just over decade alone. Transaction fees from banks are too high. Also, it is not guaranteed that the interest rate will be lower than 6.5+LIBOR. Even if it is low, can it be low from Chinggis bond of ~5%? Bond market clearly estimates the investors confidence in the country. With the Rio Tinto A3 guarantee can it be around 3-4%+LIBOR? (Mogi: little too naïve to think that a project loan interest rate can be lower than the sovereign)
Without even mentioning the outstanding 22 issues, Rio Tinto is ready to pledge the licenses to the lenders which the government doesn't approve (Mogi: this is not true, the loans are guaranteed by World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency). Also, still the updated Feasibility study has not been approved by the Minerals Council by the law requirement. We didn't even get into the 2% royalty that has been derived from BHP, that has been bought back by Turquoise Hill Resources for USD37 million back in 2006. The parent company is claiming the royalty right from OT LLC. Besides the piling debt, OT LLC threatens Mongolian interest with Entree Gold Inc. Also, an unclear license and Earn-In Agreement that frustrates the politicians.
Considering the issues mentioned above, it is too early to discuss the involvement of third parties into the project. That is why, we, Business Mongolia research team, believes that Mongolia does not want the project financing at the current state.
Ferro Announces Name Change and Share Consolidation
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - July 18, 2013) - Ferro Iron Ore Corp. (TSX VENTURE:RRO) is pleased to announce that effective July 19, 2013 the company's name will change to "Wolf Resource Development Corp." and the company's common shares will trade on the TSX Venture Exchange under its new ticker symbol, "WRD".
In addition, the common shares of the company have been consolidated such that one (1) new common share has been issued for every four (4) common shares outstanding on the date hereof. A letter of transmittal will be sent by mail to shareholders advising that the name change and share consolidation have taken effect and instructing shareholders to surrender the certificates evidencing their common shares for replacement certificates representing the number of common shares to which they are entitled as a result of the consolidation. Until surrendered, each certificate representing common shares prior to the consolidation will be deemed for all purposes to represent the number of common shares to which the holder thereof is entitled as a result of the consolidation.
The shareholders of the company approved the name change and share consolidation at the annual and special meeting of the company held on May 30, 2013. Further details regarding the name change and share consolidation are contained in the company's Information Circular dated April 30, 2013, which has been filed on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.
NatSec MSE Trading News: Top 20 -0.07%, Turnover ₮16.8 Million
July 23 (National Securities) The MSE TOP-20 fell marginally, down -0.07%, with the index down to 14,801.62 points. Intra day volumes were 39,505. 16 JSC's shares traded with a combined value of 16.8 million MNT.
On the gainers side, Khangal (HGL) soared +14.97% to 1,436 MNT. Gutal (GTL) plunged -13.03% to 6,005 MNT. The most traded share was Remicon (RMC). It produces 5 kinds of concrete. 20,000 shares were traded at 175 MNT. This totalled 3.5 million MNT and RMC alone represented half of today's traded shares. The 2nd most traded share was Hermes Centre (HRM), which rents out buildings. 15,384 shares were traded at a value of 1.6m MNT. It's price closed up +3.9% to 110 MNT.
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BoM holds FX auction
July 23 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on July 23th, 2013 the BOM has sold 28 million USD as closing rate of MNT 1486.01 and 103 million CNY as closing rate of MNT 241.6 to local commercial banks.
On July 23th, 2013, The BOM has sold 110 million USD for Swap agreement to local commercial banks.
Mogi: Just Group owner Batkhuu apparently will make a press conference on Wednesday
Morgan Stanley expresses surprise at failure of Mongolia bank
July 23 (Credit Flux) Morgan Stanley's High Yield Sovereign Research has released a note expressing its surprise that Mongolia's fifth largest lender, Savings Bank, has been declared insolvent and will be taken over by the government-owned State Bank.
The research points out that there was little to indicate that a collapse was imminent and the most recent available financial metrics appeared satisfactory. Earlier Morgan Stanley research had highlighted weakness in the Mongolian banking sector, but analysts say the speed of this move is unexpected and could undermine confidence in the entire banking sector, potentially posing a risk for the sovereign's creditworthiness as a whole.
The collapse has gone largely unreported except for an article in Bloomberg which sources a central bank press conference. As yet, the central bank does not appear to have released any written statement about Savings Bank's failure (Mogi: not in English but yes in Mongolian).
New technology introduced to the Mongolian road sector
July 16 (UB Post) With the hopes of constructing world standard roads in Mongolia, Nascon Group LLC, has introduced NASCON technology (Nano Soil Consolidation). They showed how the technology builds road with 2,000 square meters of foundation.
With this technology, high quality roads can be built at a cost ten times less time than current average road construction, assured G.Stanislaw, vice president of the board of NASCON. Below is some information from the vice president.
-Can you share your experience in using this technology? As Mongolia has a harsh climate, we face many problems on auto roads? How do you think it will suit Mongolia?
-This technology is widely used in Poland, which has four seasons just like Mongolia. Prior to launching the technology, we diligently studied Mongolia's land and soil. The Mongolian Agency for Standardization and Metrology agreed that the technology suits the Mongolian climate well and approved it.
We've also used the technology in African countries and proven its persistence in a harsh and hot climate. What's more, Lithuania, whose winter gets very cold temperatures, used this technology and it adapted to the climate very well there too.
Our technology offers a cheaper cost than traditional road construction technology, as it is unnecessary for this technology to dig the planned land for roads and lay gravel or sand, which cost a fortune. Instead, we mix the soil with a duo-solid substance which makes a remarkably persistent foundation for paving.
Secondly, the technology is known in the international market as it is eco-friendly. You can see how soil and land is damaged to construct roads with traditional technology. But we offer cheap, yet eco-friendly technology.
-For how many years can you guarantee the quality of roads built with NASCON technology?
-In Mongolia, the average guaranteed period is three years for newly built roads. Thus, we are giving a guarantee of three years too. But this technology was first introduced 40 years ago. Roads built with the technology 40 years ago are still in good condition today.
-How much time does it take to a build road?
-This technology is able to take ten times less than traditional technology to complete an auto road. A road will be ready within only three to four hours.
German technology coal-to-liquid fuel production to start soon
July 14 (UB Post) The Mongolian Government has negotiated with Germany to introduce German technology for coal liquefaction for fuel production in Mongolia, and form a project unit in charge of this work.
In 2010, the German Government decided to establish strategic partnerships in mineral resources and began mining with very few countries (Mongolia included) as a partner.
The governments of the two countries signed a treaty "Partnering in Mineral Resources, Industry and Technology Sectors" which states "Cooperation in specifically coal liquefaction and processing, ferrous metal, non-ferrous metal, rare ground metal processing sectors will be enhanced."
Industrial project implementation will be based on initiation of private sector companies. But as processed fuel is a strategic product, certain percent of the plant must be owned by the state. Thus, 51 percent of the plants will be state owned.
To ensure citizen participation and a transparent implementation progress, a certain percentage of the plants will be traded on the Mongolian Stock Exchange according to the Government Press Division.
Minegolia: China and Mongolia's Mining Boom
July16 (Wilson Center) China's economic boom appears to be contagious. Over the past few years, China's northern neighbor has quietly caught the bug and become the world's second-fastest growing economy, experiencing a GDP growth rate of approximately 17.3 percent in 2011 (Mogi: revised to 17.5%).
Mongolia's swift economic rise is driven by the massive development of mineral and coal mining, which now accounts for approximately 29 percent of the country's GDP growth. The National University of Mongolia estimates that mining will double the country's GDP in the next decade. Coal output alone is expected to grow 62 percent by 2015 – evidence of the government's willingness to tap this vital resource for domestic use and exports. The Mongolian government estimates that the opening of large mines to commercial operations will push the country's GDP growth to 19 percent in 2013.
Foreign investors, particularly Chinese companies, are vying for "Minegolia's" resources. While this investment in the expanding coal, gold, and copper industries offers the promise of improving the livelihoods of the Mongolian people – the country has a poverty rate of 35.2 percent – dependence on mineral exports also subjects the country to economic vulnerability due to commodity prices' high volatility. Mining is also creating serious environmental problems for this dry grassland country – not only polluting water and soil, but threatening the country's limited water resources with overuse. Coal mining in particular is driving a critical water-energy confrontation that mirrors challenges facing China's dry and coal-rich north.
This research brief is the first installment of a China Environment Forum examination of the growing water-energy confrontation in Mongolia linked to foreign direct investment, particularly from China. The dilemma facing Mongolia's policymakers is how to balance economic development and environmental sustainability with an expanding conflict over water allocation between people and industry. Our second installment will focus more on the economics and governance of water usage in Mongolia's mining sector.
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Former Director General of Erdenet Mines arrested
July 18 (news.mn) The former Director General of Erdenet Mining Corporation, Ch,Ganzorig, was arrested just after the Naadam celebrations.
No comment has been given to explain his arrest. But there is speculation that the arrest may have something to do with loans to a private company under the Mongolia-Russian JVC Erdenet Mining Corporation`s guarantee according to the Justice Minister.
But it is uncertain which companies are involved in the case. Reports say that the former chairman of the State Property Committee is also a suspect in the case and has been investigated.
There is further speculation that the arrest is linked to former President Nambar Enkhbayar's corruption case, however this is not confirmed. Former President Enkhbayar, who is critically ill in the State Second Hospital, was charged for embezzlement issuing large amounts of exchanges under the cover of steel ball supply to the Erdenet Mining Corporation. The charge was ignored because of a lack of evidence in Court.
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Ulaanbaatar Aims To Become Smart City By 2020
ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia), July 23 (Bernama) -- Ulaanbaatar aims to become a smart city by 2020, Mongolia's MONTSAME news agency said, citing a report by the city's administration on Monday.
Under the smart city initiative, a programme will be implemented to create a healthy and safe environment, improve the livelihood of people, increase sufficiency of state service, and support civil participation in the state policies.
A research team was set up last year to study the opportunity to introduce the "Smart city" criteria.
Under the smart city programme, the people will get the opportunities to obtain state information and news online, and also make the state service more transparent.
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Two N. Koreans caught in Mongolia for smuggling medical goods
July 24 (Arirang TV) Two North Koreans carrying diplomatic passports have been caught by Mongolia's customs office while trying to smuggle large amounts of medical goods.
The UB Post, a Mongolian English daily reports that the two individuals were caught during an inspection on an international train connecting Mongolia's capital Ulan Bator and Beijing.
Some 1-thousand boxes of injection drugs, along with brown powdered medicine, bear spleen products, and alcoholic beverages used for medicinal purposes were found in their luggage.
Whether they are actual North Korean diplomats is not yet known, but a criminal police investigation has been launched by Mongolian authorities.
ANDO TAKUYA APPOINTED HONORARY CONSUL OF MONGOLIA TO AICHI PREFECTURE, JAPAN
July 22 (InfoMongolia) The ceremony to appoint Director of the "Seiseikai" NGO hospital in Nagoya city, Ando Takuya as Honorary Consul of Mongolia in the Aichi Prefecture was held in Nagoya, Japan on July 21, and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Japan Sodovjamts KHURELBAATAR presented his exequatur.
Ando Takuya has been sending hospital equipment, instruments and assistance to Mongolia for over 10 years. During the ceremony, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia L.Bold, Governor of the Aichi Prefecture Hideaki Omura and 30 other officials were in attendance.
This autumn, Mongolian Consular department will open and start its operations in the Matsukage hospital of the "Seiseikai" NGO in Nagoya, Japan.
MONGOLIAN IMMIGRATION AGENCY IS REGISTERING ILLEGAL PHILIPPINES CITIZENS
July 23 (InfoMongolia) In cooperation with the Honorary Consul of the Republic of the Philippines in Mongolia, the Mongolian Immigration Agency (MIA) has been organizing a campaign between July 01 and August 01, 2013 to count Philippine citizens in the renewed registration, who are illegally residing in Mongolia.
The MIA officials led by its Deputy Chairman B.Tsolmon received some Philippine citizens living in Mongolia on July 19, 2013. During the meeting, officials informed that the campaign aims to provide Philippine citizens about the legal status of foreign citizens, relative laws and regulations, make sure they are being implemented and prevent any violations and asked them to cooperate actively. Officials also warned if they failed to register within the campaign period, they will strictly adhere to relative laws.
"In accordance with the Government agreement between the two countries, Philippine citizens can travel to Mongolia without visa for 21 days and Mongolian citizens to the Philippines for 30 days. Lately, there have been many cases of Philippine citizens illegally immigrating to Mongolia and working as house cleaners and babysitters. We are trying to regulate this issue. Today, there are 441 Philippine citizens registered in Mongolia," informed the Mongolian Immigration Agency.
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1,100 LIVESTOCK INFECTED WITH FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE EXTERMINATED IN BAYAN-ULGII AIMAG
July 23 (InfoMongolia) Due to the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in the territories of 2nd, 3rd and 6th Bag of Sagsai Sum, Bayan-Ulgii Aimag, the Aimag Center and Sagsai, Tsengel, Ulaankhus sums are under quarantine for an indefinite period starting from 03:00 pm of July 06, 2013.
Currently, 1,100 livestock have been exterminated out of the 1,181 livestock infected with foot-and-mouth disease, of which 412 are cattle and the rest are sheep and goats.
"Currently, the spread of the disease has subsided and although there was no infection in other areas besides the area of origins, the 5 sums neighboring the Sagsai Sum are still under quarantine.
The campaign to vaccinate cattle, sheep and goat in the quarantined sums with foot and mouth disease with A category is 70% complete. Veterinary clinic workers are sufficient. Medicine and equipment are also sufficient. Essential goods are being provided in time to the residents of the quarantined Sums. In order to not increase meat prices, meat from other sums are being put under inspection and sterilization in the Aimag center market", informed the state inspector of the General Agency for Specialized Inspection, T.Nurlaan.
IRON MAN APOLOGIZES TO MONGOLIA
July 22 (InfoMongolia) The third film in the Hollywood hit "Iron Man" series used Mongolian script as the logo for the villain in the movie.
Last May, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Mongolia Ts.Oyungerel wrote an official letter with reference number 1a/59, to the President of Marvel Studios, Inc, Kevin Feige and informed him of her objection regarding the use of Mongolian script in the "Iron Man 3" film.
Marvel Studios, Inc sent a responding letter on July 10, 2013.
The letter states:
We are replying to the matter of the use of Mongolian script in our latest production "Iron Man 3". The movie depicts a fictitious villain using the Mongolian script as his symbol. When creating the fictional character, various signs and symbols from different countries were used along with the Mongolian script. The fictitious character is not related to Mongolia by any means and it is not intended to represent Mongolians from a negative perspective. We understand that we have caused misunderstanding and angered the Mongolian citizens. We would like to convey our sincere apology in this matter and please understand we didn't expect such outcomes and would like to express our deepest regrets.
The words written in Mongolian traditional scripts are refer to Mongolian tribes relevant to XII-XV centuries and transcriptions are as follows:
1. Khar ord
3. Khukh Ord
6. Ulaan Ord
7. Nogai Ord
10. Tsagan Ord
Hollywood apologizes for using traditional Mongolian script in Iron Man 3 – UB Post, July 23
Playtime music festival returns this weekend
July 22 (news.mn) Mongolia's popular music festival "Playtime" is returning this year for the 12th year in a row. Playtime 2013 will be hosted at Hotel Mongolia, or Mongol Shiltgeen, in Gachuurt village on 27th and 28th July. At the two day festival over 40 bands will perform on two separate stages. The main stage will be the place of honor for well-known bands, and the second stage will be a show-case for new bands and performers.
The line-up on the main stage includes A-Sound, the Lemons, the Pips, Shar Airag and many more. The small stage will see performances from bands such as Zeppeton, Sakobs and Flamingo Fitch.
Tickets will be available from the Hi-Fi store.
Mogi: and the old stadium was privatized apparently without much public knowledge
CONSTRUCTION OF "MONGOL NAADAM" COMPLEX TO BE ACCELERATED
July 22 (InfoMongolia) The organizing committee of the National Naadam Festival held a meeting on July 19 and discussed the work report for the recently concluded State Naadam celebrations.
Secretary of the Organizing Committee of the National Naadam Festival, Yo.Gerelchuluun introduced the report of the 2013 National Naadam Festival, dedicated to the 2,222nd Anniversary of Mongolia's First Statehood, the 807th Anniversary of the Great Mongol Empire and the 92nd Anniversary of the People's Revolution.
In his statement, 175 people in 9 sub-committees organized the Naadam Festival in accordance to the approved programs and deadlines, where 1.5 billion MNT was approved for the Naadam Festival budget and focused on a healthy and comfortable environment for the festival participants.
Of 512 traditional wrestlers who wrestled in this year's Naadam Festival, 8 wrestlers have achieved new state titles. Around 2,000 horses of 700 horse trainers from the city and rural areas have participated in the 6 horse racing tournaments of the Naadam Festival.
Over 700 archers competed in the Uriankhai, Buriad, children's and the State Archery competitions. Also, 352 knucklebone shooters from 42 teams participated in the Knucklebone Shooting tournament.
The Central Stadium has over 12,000 seats. Only 1% of Ulaanbaatar City's population watches the Naadam Festival at the Central Stadium. In order to solve this issue, the "Mongol Naadam" complex to be built in Khui Doloon Khudag needs to be put into utilization as soon as possible, which was approved by the Capital City Citizen's Representative Khural (City Council). In order to celebrate our National Naadam Festival widely, we need to commence the construction work of the "Mongol Naadam" complex without losing any time. Therefore, the construction of the "Mongol Naadam" complex will be accelerated, which was included in the Capital City Governor's 2013-2016 Action Plan in accordance with the City Council resolution and this year's action plan and financial matters need to be resolved during the forthcoming Cabinet meeting.
Hakuho moves past Asashoryu to third on the all-time greatest list
July 22 (The Japan Times) On July 21, yokozuna Hakuho became the third most successful rikishi in the modern era, even if his 26th yusho victory since first holding aloft the Emperor's Cup 42 tournaments ago came with something of a bittersweet aftertaste.
Winning 13 straight from day one, Hakuho's defeat to ozeki Kisenosato on Day 14 down in Nagoya put an end to his latest attempt to break the 74-year old record of 69 bouts without loss held by legendary yokozuna Futabayama (1912-1968).
He will no doubt have found solace in the fact that his 26 yusho in 43 has bettered Asashoryu's incredible 25 in 44, but his days of looking to break the Futabayama record are, in all likelihood, over.
Now at age 28, the main question sumo fans are asking is how close he will get to the 31 yusho of Chiyonofuji and the 32 of Taiho. Few have any doubts he will one day equal and eventually break both records.
But in his way, and increasingly so of late, stands Kisenosato, regarded by many as Japan's next yokozuna.
Kisenosato's shot at promotion in Nagoya all but went belly up on Day 5 when he lost to Chiyotairyu (7-8 overall). Since he had dropped an earlier bout – on Day 3 – to Tochiozan (10-5), his chances of winning the yusho when he had yet to face a trio of fellow ozeki and both yokozuna were slim to none.
On Day 7 Goeido's yorikiri victory over Kisenosato guaranteed we would not be seeing a Japanese ozeki promoted to yokozuna for the first time in 15 years.
Dreams shattered, but with the faint possibility of carrying over his yokozuna run to the September Aki Basho in Tokyo being dangled in front of him, Kise then went on to defeat both yokozuna in some style, and two of three ozeki!
Come the final day of the basho, however, any possibility of him ever making the top rank all but died with his lackluster defeat to Kotoshogiku.
However, still a far better ozeki than his peers at rank, and in the past three basho yokozuna Harumafuji too, the Ibaraki native remains the only Japanese rikishi capable of winning a yusho any time soon.
Harumafuji, meanwhile, once again proved a disappointment given his yokozuna rank, finishing with a poor 10-5 record.
In five tournaments to date as a grand champion he has won just one yusho while failing to even challenge for the Emperor's Cup on all of his other outings.
The question as to whether he was prematurely promoted to yokozuna, even with his incredible back to back zensho-yusho record in mid-2012, is now front and center in many minds.
Whether or not he will be asked to retire sooner rather than later is an issue that will be answered following the Aki Basho in September. Another scrappy basho, barely reaching double figures and once again serving as a mere "also-ran" in the yusho race, will not be tolerated.
On a more positive note, and in particular for fans of Japanese rikishi, the biggest story of the tournament in juryo centered on Oitekaze Beya's wonder-boy Endo.
Still fighting under his family name, the lad from Ishikawa Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast finished his debut basho as a sekitori with a brilliant 14-1 record at juryo 13, claiming the division title and hopefully securing himself promotion to makunouchi.
In so many ways Endo is the classical rikishi. Combining ability on the belt with some very effective thrusting techniques, he will very soon be challenging for a sanyaku slot.
The juryo also-ran that made a few headlines was Oosunaarashi.
Lauded as the first African to make the salaried ranks, the Egyptian is still lacking a decent tachiai, more often than not leading with his hands out in a somewhat awkward manner, and is still very limited in terms of his ability on the belt.
While his 10-5 in Nagoya was rightfully seen by most as a great start to his sekitori career, he is still far too dependent on reverse gear backpedalling moves in similar form to other non-Japanese rikishi such as Roho, Kokkai and Aran in recent years.
Too often in Nagoya we saw him trying to slap down his foes rather than stick with forward moving sumo that will in the end make or break his career in makunouchi.
Still, with time and the right coaching, this is a lad with a decent career ahead of him. Perhaps not quite as promising as that stretching out in front of Endo, but decent nonetheless.
Snow Leopard Trust Researchers Encounter Wild Snow Leopard Cub in Mongolia
An international research team including members of the Snow Leopard Trust encounters a 2-week-old wild snow leopard cub in its den; a rare glimpse of the first days in the life of these endangered, elusive cats.
Seattle, WA (PRWEB) July 11, 2013 -- Finding a wild snow leopard cub in its den is rare and exciting in its own right – the first ever such encounter took place only last year. This most recent discovery could be particularly significant though, as the international team of scientists that found this little cub believes they know not only its mother, a cat called Agnes, but possibly its father as well, a male named Ariun. Before locating the den site, the team had been tracking both of these cats with GPS collars for several months as part of the Snow Leopard Trust's pioneer long-term snow leopard study in Mongolia's South Gobi desert.
"Beyond conception, very little is known about the role of snow leopard fathers in the wild," says Gustaf Samelius, a member of the team that encountered the cub. "Being able to monitor both parents of a newborn cub as it grows could yield exciting new insights, says Samelius, who is the Snow Leopard Trust's Assistant Director of Science and a researcher with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), "so we're eagerly awaiting the results of genetic analysis to see if Ariun is indeed the cub's father."
Analyzing their GPS locations, Örjan Johansson, a PhD student with the Snow Leopard Trust and SLU, had observed the two cats, Agnes and Ariun, spending several days in very close proximity earlier this spring. Snow leopards are usually solitary cats, so this type of behavior often indicates that two cats are mating. Several weeks later – as if on schedule – Agnes started to restrict her movements in a way that suggested she was preparing to give birth. "When we were fairly certain that she had given birth, we followed the VHF signals transmitted by her collar in order to find her den," says Gustaf Samelius.
On June 21, Gustaf Samelius and his colleagues - Sumbe Tomorsukh of Mongolia and Australians Jeremy Krockenberger and Carol Esson - located the exact spot where Agnes had set up her den. Once they were certain she was a safe distance away, the scientists were able to briefly enter the den, examine, and photograph her 2 week-old cub. They took hair samples that will allow them to establish the cubs' genetic identification and confirm sex. They also took weights and measurements, and implanted a tiny microchip - called a PIT tag - for identification, similar to those used by pet owners.
"We still know very little about how snow leopards reproduce in the wild. It has taken years of sustained scientific effort for us to able to begin documenting birth rates, sex ratios, cub sizes, litter sizes or cub survival rates – all of which are critical to our work to save these endangered cats. Getting the rare opportunity to observe a cub in its den is huge for us," says Charudutt Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust's Science and Conservation Director. "The team handled the cub with care and took their measurements as quickly as possible."
A Visit from Dad?
Back in the study base camp, the team looked at GPS data from presumed father Ariun's collar and compared it to the exact den location. "As we compared the data, we realized that Ariun had been within a few feet of the den a week after the cub's birth, while Agnes, the cub's mother, was almost a mile away," Gustaf Samelius says. "We can't tell if he was actually inside the den or what he did there, but it's a fascinating behavior to observe – especially if Ariun really does turn out to be the father".
Snow Leopards – the Elusive Ghosts of the Mountain
There are as few as 3,500-7,000 snow leopards left in the wild—and due to their elusive nature, encounters are so rare that the cats are often referred to as "ghosts of the mountain." Accordingly, our understanding of the cats' ecology and behavior remains limited. However, an international team of scientists has been conducting a pioneering long-term snow leopard study in Mongolia's South Gobi desert since 2008, tracking the cats with GPS collars and research cameras and expanding our knowledge about this endangered species by leaps and bounds.
Snow Leopard Trust:
The Snow Leopard Trust, based in Seattle, WA, is a world leader in conservation of the endangered snow leopard.
Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation:
Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation is the Snow Leopard Trust's partner organization based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; partnering together on the conservation of the endangered snow leopard since 1998.
The efforts of Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation in Mongolia are carried out in partnership with the Mongolian Ministry of Nature, Environment and Green Development, the Mongolia Academy of Sciences, Nordens Ark and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Our Long-Term Ecological Study (LTES) of snow leopards in Mongolia began as a collaboration between the Snow Leopard Trust, Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation, and Panthera in 2008. As of January 1, 2013, Panthera no longer actively participates in LTES. We continue to work cooperatively with Panthera on analyzing data collected through 2012, including information from Agnes and Ariun's collars.
Mogi Munkhdul Badral Bontoi
Founder & CEO
Mobile: +976 9999 6779
P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.