Zara in Mongolia adventure

Zara's trip has been made possible by a scholarship from Mackie's
Zara's trip has been made possible by a scholarship from Mackie's

An intrepid researcher from Aberdeenshire is taking on the wilds of Mongolia as she studies the relationship between snow leopards, ibex and livestock.

Zara Morris-Trainor has been assessing the effects of the cashmere industry on wild animals such as snow leopards.

She has been living in a ger – a traditional Mongolian tent - in the Tost Nature Reserve alongside native nomadic herders.

With a scholarship from Mackie’s of Scotland of Westertown Farm, Rothienorman, Zara was able to interview herders while in the field stalking ibex and investigating the effects that grazing has on the local ecosystem.

While working with the Snow Leopard Trust in Mongolia, she is studying the sustainability of cashmere production and the impact increasing livestock numbers are having on the native animal populations.

Having grown up in New Zealand, Zara moved to the UK four years ago for her Masters and is now undertaking her doctorate at University of Aberdeen where she applied for the Sir Maitland Mackie Scholarship.

She said: “It has been an incredible experience in every way. From the stunning landscape to the phenomenal people I’ve met. Even -20C weather this winter couldn’t put a dampener on the experience.

“I’m so grateful to get backing in the form of the scholarship, as without vital funding like this it simply wouldn’t be possible to conduct my research in this way.”

Mackie’s managing director Mac Mackie said: “We were fortunate to witness the majesty of snow leopards in the recent series of Planet Earth, so it’s amazing to think that our farm in Aberdeenshire is helping in the effort to understand the big cat’s plight.

“It is a source of immense pride that our parents’ scholarship will continue to provide a little help for people like Zara.”