SLN Webinar: How the Tost mountains, Mongolia became a protected haven for snow leopards

Welcome to SLN’s final webinar for 2020! During this year we have travelled across many countries of the snow leopard range- hearing updates and latest accounts of snow leopard research and conservation. We began in China and travelled to Nepal, Mongolia, India and the Russian Federation. We look forward to another set of country updates planned for 2021. 

SLN would like to end the year on a positive and optimistic note. Today we take a detour to look back at one of snow leopard conservation remarkable achievements in the South Gobi of Mongolia- the process of establishing the Tost Nature Reserve. We will be hearing from one of Tost’s key conservation leaders- Bayara  Agvantsaaren – who has been advocating for Tost’s snow leopards for over a decade. Bayara is also a global conservation figure having won the Goldman Environmental Prizein 2019. Dr. Charudutt Mishra, the Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, will be joining us as discussant. He brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and thinking about how snow leopard conservation and development can go hand in hand while addressing emerging threats to snow leopards such as mining. 

We hope to see you for this final webinar of 2020- and in doing so help highlight what is a growing number of snow leopard conservation success stories across the range.  

About the talk: This is a story of protecting the Tost Mountains from being given away under mining licenses. The story had a number of chapters and it’s share of hopes and disappointments. After a long campaign of over 7 years that included research, advocacy and political mobilization a set of mining licenses were finally revoked and Tost was designated as a Nature Reserve for snow leopards in 2018. Bayara will start by talking about the setting. She will share a first hand account of how snow leopards face a number of emerging threats in Mongolia- in a context of economic needs that continue to pressurize the modern world. Bayara will give us an inside view of her team’s experience in accomplishing this extraordinary achievement in a very challenging setting, drawing on the support and involvement of local people and media.

About our Guest: Bayara is the Executive Director of Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation and Mongolia Program Director, at the Snow Leopard Trust. 

“I have been working as a snow leopard conservationist since 1998 when I co-found Snow Leopard Enterprises Program which offers income generation to rural herders who share mountain with these elusive cats. It has been amazing 20+ years career journey to work with different aspects of conservation. I am privileged to be able to help both snow leopards and local people.” shares Bayara.

Date/Time: Monday; December 21st, 2020; 16:00 Ulaanbaatar Mongolia time.

Location: ZOOM, to join this talk,  REGISTER HERE

Please note:

  • If you have never used Zoom before, we recommend that you try the link 10 minutes before the start of the lecture.
  • Please feel free to write questions in the comment area and there will be time for questions/discussion at the end of the talk.



SLN Webinar; Using a genetic lens to understand endangered species


The Snow Leopard Network is pleased to announce our seventh SLN webinar of 2020. SLN is dedicating the month of November to exploring Genetics, in particular in support of snow leopard conservation. We already have launched the November training initiative with a module on genetics. The Webinar allows us to bring emphasis on this topic with a wider audience and drawing on experiences from different endangered species.

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan for this thematic discussion on how genetics can be brought to bear more effectively on specific aspects of snow leopard conservation. Uma has a wealth of knowledge and experience working on endangered species and developing methodological approaches for conservation. Uma will be joined by Dr. Byron Weckworth, Director of Panthera’s Snow Leopard and Conservation Genetic programs, as principal discussant.

About the Talk:
Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan will start by exploring the reasons species go extinct, and describe how genetic methods and data can inform our understanding of species’ futures. Uma will give some examples of her work with tigers, and summarise their knowledge on snow leopard conservation genetics, including some of their work to estimate snow leopard population size. Finally, she will describe ongoing efforts, (in collaboration with scientists at Stanford University,) to understand more about snow leopards globally and locally.
More about our guest:
Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan is an associate professor and senior fellow, DBT Wellcome Trust India Alliance, at the National Centre for Biological Sciences. She has studied the genetics of endangered species for the last fifteen years, and is interested in understanding how humans are affecting the evolutionary trajectory of species like snow leopards. Uma loves working with students and science communication, and tries to communicate her science to conservation managers.
All my professional life, I have worked with scat. I love finding a scat and wondering…., what mysteries will this reveal?“, says Uma. 

Date/Time:  19:30 India time, Friday, November 20th (Please log into the meeting 5 min early to set up)

Location: ZOOM, to join this talk  REGISTER HERE  

Please note:

  • If you have never used Zoom before, we recommend that you try the link 10 minutes before the start of the lecture.
  • During the talk, please keep your microphone muted.
  • Please feel free to write questions in the comment area and there will be time for questions/discussion at the end of the talk.
  • The Zoom event is limited to 100 participants. Please register for the event and also sign in early to ensure your place.


Publication Alert: New article to the Bibliography

Please find details below about a new article that has been added to our Bibliography:

Title: Detection and Genetic Characterization of Viruses Present in Free-Ranging Snow Leopards Using Next-Generation Sequencing

Authors: Johansson, O., Ullman, K., Lkhagvajav, P., Wiseman, M., Malmsten, J., Leijon, M.

Abstract: Snow leopards inhabit the cold, arid environments of the high mountains of South and Central Asia. These living conditions likely affect the abundance and composition of microbes with the capacity to infect these animals. It is important to investigate the microbes that snow leopards are exposed to detect infectious disease threats and define a baseline for future changes that may impact the health of this endangered felid. In this work, next-generation sequencing is used to investigate the fecal (and in a few cases serum) virome of seven snow leopards from the Tost Mountains of Mongolia. The viral species to which the greatest number of sequences reads showed high similarity was rotavirus. Excluding one animal with overall very few sequence reads, four of six animals (67%) displayed evidence of rotavirus infection. A serum sample of a male and a rectal swab of a female snow leopard produced sequence reads identical or closely similar to felid herpesvirus 1, providing the first evidence that this virus infects snow leopards. In addition, the rectal swab from the same female also displayed sequence reads most similar to feline papillomavirus 2, which is the first evidence for this virus infecting snow leopards. The rectal swabs from all animals also showed evidence for the presence of small circular DNA viruses, predominantly Circular Rep-Encoding Single-Stranded (CRESS) DNA viruses and in one case feline anellovirus. Several of the viruses implicated in the present study could affect the health of snow leopards. In animals which are under environmental stress, for example, young dispersing individuals and lactating females, health issues may be exacerbated by latent virus infections.


Module 2 – Prey surveys is now available as an online toolkit Inbox SLN

We wish to inform you that our Module 2 – SLN Training Initiative – Prey
Surveys is now available as an online toolkit for our members.

About this course:
Asia’s mountain ungulates– also known as the Mountain Monarchs of high
Asia- play an important role in maintaining ecosystems by influencing
vegetation structure and nutrient cycling. These include Argali (Ovis
ammon), Blue Sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Asiatic Ibex (Capra sibirica),
Urial (Ovis orientalis) and Markhor (Capra falconeri). However, owing to
their remote mountainous habitats and associated challenges in sampling,
there is a lack of information regarding their abundance, population
trends and ecology. There is a need for more information about the
population status of these ungulates, which carries special significance
in the protection of the snow leopard across its range.

Our Module 2 aims to equip participants with the knowledge and tools to
plan and carry out robust mountain ungulate surveys using the
Double-observer Method. We dive into understanding the fascinating
ecology of these species based on the latest research. The module is
divided into 4 parts and covers key concepts from planning surveys,
conducting them, analysing data, and using outcomes for conservation
action, publication and/or policy. Alongside we will have fascinating
talks by subject experts, sharing their experiences and outputs. This is
critical as conservation status assessment of any species requires
rigorous monitoring of their abundances, which done over time, can
provide knowledge of population trends.

This course was conducted live through on-line sessions with Snow
Leopard Network participants in August 2020. The training took place
over 4 sessions (each 2 hours) corresponding to key learnings necessary
for designing and carrying out double observer surveys to assess
ungulate abundance and density. The recordings from this live training
are now available below. Do follow the outlined structure of the course
as each session builds on each other. In total the course consists of 8
hours of video presentation and discussion.

This module has been co-created by a team of researchers and
practitioners from across the snow leopard range, including India,
Pakistan, Mongolia and China: Dr. Hussain Ali, Purevjav (Puji)
Lkhagvajav, Chagsadulam (Chagsaa) Odonjavkhlan, Dr. Lingyun Xiao and
Munib Khanyari. Together the module co-creators have worked to study and
protect mountain ungulates including Argali, Asiatic Ibex, Blue Sheep,
Markhor and Urial across India, Pakistan, Mongolia, China and

The live training sessions were led by Munib Khanyari with the support
of a number of guest speakers (Chagsadulam (Chagsaa) Odonjavkhlan,
Abhirup Khara and Dr. Yash Veer Bhatnagar). Munib is currently a PhD
Candidate at the University of Bristol and Oxford University in the UK.
He works on understanding factors that affect mountain ungulate
populations in Central and South Asia. 

Please access this online resource for practitioners here –

Publication Alert – New Article to the Bibliography

Dear Members,

Please see the details below of a new article added to our bibliography:

Title: Relative influence of wild prey and livestock abundance on
carnivore-caused livestock predation.

Authors: Khanal, G., Mishra, C., Suryawanshi, K. R.

Abstract: Conservation conflict over livestock depredation is one of the
key drivers of large mammalian carnivore declines worldwide. Mitigating
this conflict requires strategies informed by reliable knowledge of
factors influencing livestock depredation. Wild prey and livestock
abundance are critical factors influencing the extent of livestock
depredation. We compared whether the extent of livestock predation by
snow leopards Panthera uncia differed in relation to densities of wild
prey, livestock, and snow leopards at two sites in Shey Phoksundo
National Park, Nepal. We used camera trap-based spatially explicit
capture–recapture models to estimate snow leopard density;
double-observer surveys to estimate the density of their main prey
species, the blue sheep Pseudois nayaur; and interview-based household
surveys to estimate livestock population and number of livestock killed
by snow leopards. The proportion of livestock lost per household was
seven times higher in Upper Dolpa, the site which had higher snow
leopard density (2.51 snow leopards per 100 km2) and higher livestock
density (17.21 livestock per km2) compared to Lower Dolpa (1.21 snow
leopards per 100 km2; 4.5 livestock per km2). The wild prey density was
similar across the two sites (1.81 and 1.57 animals per km2 in Upper and
Lower Dolpa, respectively). Our results suggest that livestock
depredation level may largely be determined by the abundances of the
snow leopards and livestock and predation levels on livestock can vary
even at similar levels of wild prey density. In large parts of the snow
leopard range, livestock production is indispensable to local
livelihoods and livestock population is expected to increase to meet the
demand of cashmere. Hence, we recommend that any efforts to increase
livestock populations or conservation initiatives aimed at recovering or
increasing snow leopard population be accompanied by better herding
practices (e.g., predator-proof corrals) to protect livestock from snow


SLN Training Initiative – Genetics – Module 5

This course is Module 5 of the Snow Leopard Network’s training initiative. This Module is offered thanks to the support of Panthera, Duquesne University and the University of Delaware.

Course Content

Snow leopards are difficult to observe and therefore collecting adequate data to address conservation, research, and monitoring questions can be challenging. This species persists at low densities, requires large tracts of habitat, and is capable of long distance dispersal. Most snow leopard populations exist in naturally fragmented landscapes and face increased impact and fragmentation from anthropogenic activities, all of which may disrupt various demographic processes important for population persistence. While camera traps have greatly aided in addressing some of the challenges of collecting data on these elusive animals, molecular techniques can provide the same, and in some cases superior, information compared to that of photo images.  However, the investment in developing and using molecular techniques is largely underutilized across the snow leopard conservation community.

The Genetics Training Module, offered through the Snow Leopard Network, is meant to provide participants with a basic understanding of wildlife genetics and its applications to designing effective conservation programs for snow leopards. This course will largely serve as an introductory primer to more complex techniques, analyses, and applications of noninvasive genetics, but will cover a wide range of topics relevant to the leading approaches. We will start by outlining the power and utility of genetics in wildlife conservation. We will provide examples from the real-world applications of these methods for improving species conservation and management. Then we will cover the essentials for noninvasive sample collection, processing in the lab, and molecular approaches for species, sex, and individual ID.  At the end we will introduce the most recent advances in utilizing Next Generation Sequencing. Finally, we will wrap up the course with an open round-table discussion on how to expand on these methods in range countries, and talk about the primary goals, opportunities, and challenges.

Meet the Trainers

Dr. Byron Weckworth is the director of Panthera’s Snow Leopard and Conservation Genetic programs. His research experience has involved work across a variety of ecosystems and species, including wolves,white-tailed deer, black bears, caribou, moose, and, of course, snow leopards. Byron’s work aims to address a wide spectrum of ecological and evolutionary questions pertinent to successful conservation. 

Dr. Jan E. Janecka is an Associate Professor in Biological Sciences at Duquesne University. He published a study evaluating the utility of noninvasive genetics for monitoring snow leopards in 2007. Since then, he has worked with partners in Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Mongolia, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Bhutan applying genetics to snow leopards to understand their distribution, abundance, diet, phylogeography, landscape connectivity, evolution, and adaptations to high altitude. 

Imogene Cancellare is a PhD Candidate at the University of Delaware and is a partner of the Conservation Genetics Program at Panthera. Her research focuses on understanding the ecological and evolutionary patterns that impact snow leopard population connectivity range-wide. Her work aims to address the relationships between gene flow and landscapes at varying spatial scales to better inform conservation efforts, and to increase capacity for wildlife genetics research across Central Asia.

Charlotte Hacker is a PhD candidate at Duquesne University and research associate with the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Her research focuses on the use of molecular techniques to better understand snow leopard phylogeography, gene flow, and diet. Her work aims to contribute to current knowledge of the species’ population status at local and range-wide scales, as well as current understanding of species ecology and coexistence with humans.

Criteria for participation

    • Snow Leopard Network Member
    • Experience or willingness to work on snow leopard conservation efforts
    • Confirmed availability to attend all the four online seminars of a given module
    • Number of participants is limited to 30
    • Priority will be given to participants from snow leopard range countries 

Planned Schedule

    • 2 hour online Zoom Seminars take place every Monday of the month, November 2020 (4 Seminars; November 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd) at 9:00 AM EST (20:00 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan time).
    • Additional group work, assignments or readings are likely to be organized by the trainers
    • Please note we expect all participants to attend the complete set of Monday Seminars as they are interconnected and build on each other
    • Details of each specific Seminar topic will be shared approximately 5 days beforehand; including any expected preparations by participants.

Deadline for Applications

    • Friday, October 16th, 2020. Please note places are limited so please do not delay in applying.
    • Please fill in the following APPLICATION OPEN 

Fomonomore via Facebook Watch – Big Cats: The Inside Story/E7/Latika Nath/Koustubh Sharma/Snow Leopards


Koustubh Sharma – Senior Regional Ecologist – Snow Leopard Trust

At the GSLEP Secretariat, he helps with the coordination of implementation of the Bishkek Declaration – a unique alliance that brings 12 sovereign countries and several international financial institutions and organizations together for conservation of snow leopard and its ecosystem. 

In this episode of ‘Big Cats – The Inside Story’, he takes us on a journey to the mountains. He reveals how snow leopards act as a vital part of the ecosystem and how they are the custodians. Join Koustubh and Latika for an hour of conversation and stories in Episode 7.

Link –

Snow Leopard Conversations – Not all large carnivores are the same: predators, prey and the snow leopard

The Snow Leopard Network is pleased to announce a continuation of our series entitled “Snow Leopard Conversations”. This new series aims to showcase the latest science and research related to snow leopards. These conversations are aimed to cover unexplored themes and emphasises interdisciplinary approaches. We hope to promote more such talks and discussions in future.
We are delighted to welcome Dr. Francesco Ferretti  and Dr. Sandro Lovari who will explore a number of hypothesises on how snow leopard interact with prey and other carnivores.  

About the talk:

Access to adequate large prey and avoidance of competition with larger predators are two major determinants of behaviour and ecology of carnivores. Moreover, predators and prey are constantly involved in an evolutionary arms race, aiming at maximising prey capture rate and minimising predation, respectively. Man-induced habitat manipulation and prey depletion alter these natural dynamics. The way these factors interact is crucial to enhance conservation of large carnivores.

This talk will combine recently published and ongoing meta-analyses on food habits of large terrestrial carnivores and studies on predator-prey interactions, to explore the role of prey diversity in influencing carnivore coexistence as well as favouring their persistence. In particular, implications for a better understanding of the ecology of the snow leopard and its interactions with competitors and prey will be discussed.

About our Speakers:

We wish to introduce Dr. Francesco Ferretti who is mainly interested in behavioural ecology and management of large mammals, with an emphasis on mechanisms of interspecific interactions (including competition, facilitation and predator-prey relationships). He has worked on different species of ungulates (several deer species, wild boar, Apennine chamois, Alpine chamois) and carnivores (wolf, red fox and large cats such as snow leopard, common leopard and tiger). He is on the editorial board of Mammalian Biology and Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, as well as member of the Caprinae Specialist Group of the IUCN. Currently he is an Associate Professor in the University of Siena.
Francesco will be joined by Dr Sandro Lovari as facilitator.



Tuesday September 29th 2020; 10:00am Italy Central Europe Time


Register to attend through the following link:

ZOOM Registration

    • If you have never used Zoom before, we recommend that you try the link 10 minutes before the start of the lecture.
    • During the talk, please keep your microphone muted.
    • Please feel free to write questions in the comment area and there will be time for questions/discussion at the end of the talk.
    • The Zoom event is limited to 100 participants. Please register for the event and also sign in early to ensure your place.

Using Drones To Assess Populations Of Snow Leopard Prey Species – A Preliminary Report and Video

In 2019, a group of researchers traveled to Mongolia to test the utility of employing drone (UAV) technology for assessing the abundance of snow leopard prey species like argali and ibex. Dr. Rodney Jackson, the Snow Leopard Conservancy’s Director was accompanied by Dr. Don Hunter of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Cat Conservancy, Dr. Bariushaa Munkhtsog of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Biology, and Irbis Mongolia, and videographer Ben Hunter of the Isaacson School for New Media, Colorado Mountain College.

Snow leopards are at risk of extinction due to a wide variety of threats, including retaliatory killing, poaching, prey depletion, and habitat loss and disruption. In order to help this species survive, it’s important to know their numbers, distribution, and characteristic behaviors. However, being an inhabitant of a high-mountain environment snow leopards are very difficult to locate and study. Newer non-invasive research methods like trail cameras and fecal genotyping have been helpful, but there still remains the question as to how many snow leopards and prey remain in the wild – questions which lie at the very heart of the 12 range state GSLEP-supported PAWS program.

Given that it is very difficult and expensive to count the cats, an easier, less-expensive alternative is assessing the abundance of their large prey species like ibex, argali, and blue sheep. Snow leopards and other predators thrive in areas with a healthy and stable prey base. Therefore, one can infer snow leopard population capacity based on the number of available prey, including wild and domestic ungulates (hoofed stock).

Some wild ungulates are easier to observe as they prefer open terrain, but they still occupy a vast habitat. In recent years, drones equipped with infrared thermal (temperature) sensors have proven effective for rapidly surveying more habitat than is possible by a person walking along transects and counting the wildlife observed.

After successfully testing the drone surveying deer (mountain lion prey) in Colorado, the team traveled to Mongolia’s Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in the East Gobi Province and Toost Uul Community Reserve, located in the South Gobi.  A commercial-grade drone, the DJI Matrice 210, utilizing thermography and a powerful zoom lens was deployed to detect and assess numbers of argali and ibex along several fixed transects that have been surveyed annually over the last 20 years under a program established by Denver Zoo.

Though preliminary, the results were very encouraging. The drone detected a total of 37 argali in six groups along one 4-km (2.5-mile) transect, as illustrated below. This and other transects are monitored annually by ground observers that walk and note animals  one kilometer (approx. 1,100 yards) on either side.  However, not all parts of each transect is visible to them. Using GIS and a 30 meter DEM (Digital Elevation Model), we mapped the rough extent of terrain, the “viewshed,” visible to observers walking the transect centerline, indicated by the green-shaded areas.  The brown areas were obscured to the ground observers but  visible to the drone flying at 100 m (330 feet) above ground level.

As shown in the figure, four of the six argali groups were in areas obscured from human observation, areas such as hidden valleys, gullies or behind rocky outcrops, and thus only visible to the drone flying overhead. The drone covered the entire transect in a fully autonomous 20-minute flight covering the four transect segments shown in black. In all, it was a very promising start to a project that clearly merits continued study.

Click the link below to view a video of the project produced Ben Hunter:

This project was supported by a Sabin Foundation grant the Rocky Mountain Cat Conservancy received from Panthera. Thanks also to the SLC donors for their support.

Submitted by Dr. Rodney Jackson, Dr. Don Hunter and Dr. B. Munkhtsog.