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WWF-Russia track snow leopards with the first and only regular volunteer expedition

22 june 2021
Camera traps captured Karagai, a young male, but Khorgai, the old male Khorgai and Guta, the female, did not pose in fromt of the cameras

Camera traps captured Karagai, a young male. Unfortunatelly the well-known by WWF snow leopard individuals - Khorgai, the old male, and Guta, the female who had several litters – were not recorded.

Tracing Snow Leopard” expedition of volunteers completed its survey on the Chikhacheva ridge in partnership with WWF and Altaisky nature reserve. The participants checked and installed automatic cameras to verify the presence of the snow leopard and evaluate the number of the population, one of the key snow leopard habitats in Russia. Totally 20 people and three vehicles were involved in two work sites.

“Tracing Snow Leopard” is the only regular annual volunteer expedition in Russia to monitor the snow leopard. The non-professional volunteers from all over Russia come annually to the Chikhacheva ridge to monitor snow leopard and help experts to save time and resources. Volunteers fund the expedition themselves: buy camera traps, buy field supplies, fuel, etc. 

Ex[edition to the Chikhacheva ridge.
(c) WWF / Tracing Snow Leopard volunteer expedition

Camera traps captured a young male named Karagai on the Chikhachev Ridge. On video Karagai is damaging the camera and posing in front of the lens, leaving marks on the rock for other snow leopards. In spring, when this video was filmed, snow leopards have a mating period - felines are actively looking for a pair: they mark the area, females meow, big cats are more active. Last year Karagai was already recorded by cameras with another young male, possibly his brother. Snow leopards are solitary creatures, together you can only see a female with her cubs or young animals that have not yet occupied individual sites.

Karagai male snow leopard

“Unfortunately, the oldest snow leopard in Altai named Khorgai and the female Guta, which volunteers have been watching for many years, have not been captured by cameras this time. However, Khorgai was recorded by camera traps in Mongolia on March, 9 this year. Perhaps he just did not pass in front of the cameras in Russia. Moreover, the volunteers probably heard Guta’ mating call not far from the expedition camp, they even recorded the calling call”, says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Project Coordinator of the WWF-Russia’s Representative Office in Altai- Sayan ecoregion.

Karagai is breaking the camera

Expedition took place in difficult weather conditions. Snow fell several times due to the late and cold spring. Travelling to the field and back was extremely difficult. For the first time since the start of regular expedition to the Chikhacheva ridge the soil was so saturated with moisture that expeditionary UAZ vehicles sank into swampy mud, cars got stuck. Great coordination between the team members made it possible to complete the mission.

 

Expedition participants
(c) WWF / Tracing Snow Leopard volunteer expedition

This time together with experienced volunteers who have been working on the Chikhachev Ridge every year for many years, new comers joined the field trip. The team members were divided into teams of 3-4 people of new and old participants to check different trails, teach and learn camera trapping. This approach helped in the shortest possible time to set up a network of camera traps in 20 points, to train new members of the expedition for future field work. 

For additional information please contact
Altai-Sayan ecoregional press-officer
Senior Project Coordinator