This photographer couldn’t believe his eyes when he witnessed not one but two rare snow leopards interacting in the wild after battling extreme heights and temperatures.
In the Ladakh Mountain Range, India, photographer Sascha Fonesca’s crystal-clear camera trap photos required him to endure temperatures of -25 degrees Fahrenheit at more than 14,000 feet.
During two hours in the photographs, the pair of leopards may be seen approaching the camera several times – even marking their territory.
Capturing the breathtaking images marked a sort of personal success for Sacha; despite wishing to photograph a snow leopard for around three years, he had never been fortunate enough to do so.
Sascha said: “The response was amazing, also from the locals.
“In fact, these are the first night images 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.”
Over a week, Sascha worked to set up two camera traps in the area, communicating with local guides who knew where the cats would be sooner rather than later.
“I spent several months preparing for the project, setting up and testing equipment to ensure that the traps were fully weather-sealed,” Sascha said.
He added that getting to the location was also incredibly demanding physically due to the extreme temperatures involved and 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 figures declining owing to habitat loss, po.ac.hing, and climate change.
“They are magnificent and fascinating,” said Sascha of his interest in snow leopards.
“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.
“They’re difficult to spot because of their excellent camouflage and the harsh climate they dwell in and because they’re so uncommon and mostly active at night.”
“The locals call them the ‘Ghost of the Mountains.”