By Jack Williams
After battled extreme heights and temperatures, this photographer couldn’t believe his eyes when he managed to capture not one by TWO rare snow leopards interacting in the wild.
Photographer Sascha Fonesca’s crystal-clear camera trap shots required the photographer to brave temperatures of -25 Celsius at a height of more than 14,000 feet, in theLadakh Moutain Range, India.
In the images, shot this month, the pair of leopards can be seen inquisitively approaching the camera multiple times over a two-hour period – even marking their territory.
Capturing the stunning shots also marked somewhat of a personal accomplishment for Sacha, 42, who had never been lucky enough to photography a snow leopard before, despite aiming to do so for around three years.
Sascha, who is from Germany but lives in Dubai, said: “The response was amazing, also from the locals.
“Actually, these are the first night photos they had ever seen of snow leopards taken with a DSLR camera trap, which meant in color and high resolution.
“Everybody agrees these are special images.”
In order to shoot the photographs, captured earlier this month, Sascha worked on setting up two camera traps over the space of a week, liaising with local guides who knew the marking spots and where the cats might be sooner than later.
Sascha said that he spent a couple of months readying for the photography project, building and testing equipment, making sure the traps were perfectly weather sealed.
Getting to the location was also incredibly demanding physically, he added, due to the extreme temperatures involved as well as the altitude and amount of climbing necessary.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in the wild, with these number declining due to the likes of habitat loss, poaching and climate change.
Speaking of his fascination for snow leopards, Sascha said: “They are mysterious and incredibly beautiful.
“It’s something in their face – to me they look wise, almost from another world.
“I’ve photographed other big cats, but the snow leopard is in its own category.
“And, of course, there is the challenge.
“Snow leopards are the most difficult big cats to photograph in the wild.
“Not only because of its perfect camouflage and the harsh environment they live in, but also because they are so rare and mostly active during night.
“The locals refer to them as ‘Ghost of the Mountains.'”