Unique snow leopard captured on video during an international expedition in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion

This is a release put out by Altaisky Zapovednik. Here’s a link to the video on YouTube if you can’t make the link below work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuYARiqW-5g&feature=player_embedded.



Unique snow leopard captured on video during an international expedition
24 May 11

A joint Mongolian-Russian expedition to study transboundary populations of snow leopard in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion recently finished its work. The expedition took place May 5-18, 2011 with support from WWF-Russia and WWF-Mongolia. Participants in the int’l expedition surveyed transboundary snow leopard habitat – the Mongolian side of Tsagan-Shibetu Ridge (in Tsagaan-Shuvuut Zapovednik) and Chikhachev Ridge (park of Silkkhemin Nuruu National Park), adjacent to the Russian border. Staff from Altaisky Zapovednik, the Mongolian Academy of Science’s Institute of Biology, WWF-Mongolia, Irbis Video Studio (Altai Republic), the Irves Anti-poaching Brigade (Mongolia), and the Administrations of the Uvs-Nuur and Mongolian Altai protected areas participated in the international expedition.

Several of the areas surveyed by the scientists indicated a high density of evidence of snow leopard spoor and markings. A group of snow leopards live in this transboundary area, and their study is extremely important for protecting these rare predators in Russia and Mongolia. The predator’s scrapes, scent markings, paw prints, and prey remains were found in as many as thirty sites per kilometer of the route. This number is comparable to the best snow leopard habitat in India and Nepal. The experts also gathered 50+ scat samples for future DNA analysis to determine the gender and number of animals in this group.

During the expedition and almost atop the Russian international border, the group was able to collect unique video images of snow leopards. The scientists installed camera traps on Chikhachev Ridge in a place where snow leopards were active and after just a few days – success! A snow leopard jumped from a large rock immediately in front of the camera, and unhurriedly walked way along a narrow canyon. Link to the video here, on Altaisky Zapovednik’s website: http://www.altzapovednik.ru/video/2011/irbis.aspx.

The data gathered as a result of this study show that snow leopards live permanently in this area, and that the population is stable. WWF experts estimate the snow leopard population along Chikhachev Ridge to be about 10-12 animals, with an additional 20 animals on the Tsagaan-Shibetu Ridge (both the Russian and Mongolian sides).

Despite their seemingly small number, snow leopards living along the Russian-Mongolian border are a connecting link between the few remaining Russian groups and the population nucleus in western Mongolia.

In Mongolia, snow leopards are protected within Tsagaan-Shuvuut Zapovednik and Silkkhemin Nuruu National Park. On the Russian side, Chikhachev and Tsagan-Shibetu Ridges unfortunately fall outside of any officially protected area.

Today, WWF experts are assessing the possibility of creating an additional cluster in Sailyugem National Park, along the southern side of Chikhachev Ridge in Altai Republic, as well as a cluster for Ubsunurskaya Basin Zapovednik in the southern part of Tsagan-Shibetu Ridge (Tuva Republic).

Follwoing their analysis, the materials gathered on the expedition will permit a more precise estimate of the population of snow leopards living in the study area (Shapshal – Tsagan-Shibetu – Tsagan-Shuvuut and the southern Chikhachev Ridge) as well as to identify genetic links with other snow leopards in Russia.

Materials from WWF-Altai-Sayan and Sergei Spitsyn (Altaisky Zapovednik) were used to prepare this press release.


Translation by Jennifer Castner