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Премия рунета 2017

Camera traps captured 9 snow leopards on the Eastern Sayan Ridge

06 december 2017
WWF Russia warns that the snow leopard group on the Eastern Sayan Ridge demands urgent conservation measures

In 2017 camera traps set by WWF on the Eastern Sayan Ridge captured 9 snow leopards. Of them 4 are males and 3 are females with the cubs.

WWF Altai-Sayan Programme in partnership with World Around You Foundation monitored snow leopard through the whole year. Since January the camera traps captured snow leopards 14 times, 9 animals were identified. A camera captured a female with two cubs in spring and the tracks of another female snow leopard with cubs were spotted in September. The animals walked near the camera trap next day the camera was set. The experts could have seen the snow leopards!

Sergey Malykh, WWF expert, the Head of Asia-Irbis Working Group, said: “We have been following several snow leopards for years. A male called Erbedich was captured in October, 2016 and later in spring we caught him on camera 100 km away. We’ve already come across such long travel distance of male snow leopard before as well as females. This nomadic lifestyle is common for snow leopards. For instance, we met Kucheryavaya (Curly), female snow leopard in 2015. Her name, Curly, comes from the mated fur on her back. For the first time the cameras captured her with the cubs in October, 2016. In April, 2017 the images we got clearly proved that she led her cubs to Russian-Mongolian border. We expect them to come back in winter. Dimka male snow leopard left us his stunning photo in the Tunkinskiye Goltsi Ridge in spring of 2016 but the cameras have not been fixing him for several months already. We do not know when he’s gone and whether he is coming back or not”.
Erbedich Snow Leoaprd
New snow leopard captured in Buryatia this year, still not identified.
Dimka snow leopard left his stunning photoe for the experts.
Snow leoaprds of Buryatia
(c) WWF / Asia-Irbis Working Group

About 40 camera traps are set in Republic Buryatia on the Bolshoi Sayan, Munku-Sardik, Tunkinskiye Goltsi Ridges that cover 1500-2000 sq. km. About 5000 sq.km on the Eastern Ridge has been surveyed. It amounts up to 80% of the total area of the snow leopard population on the Eastern Sayan Ridge.

Apart from the images of snow leopards the cameras caprtured the tens of images of the Pallas’ cat (Manul), Altai peacock, musk deer, brown bear and other species. 

WWF estimates the number of snow leopards in Buryatia at about fifteen animals. Not the whole area of the Eastern Sayan has been surveyed so far, there are a lot of blind spots, but we are already confirmed that there are no preconditions for the population growth, said Alexander Karnaukhov, WWF Altai-Sayan Programme Senior Coordinator. The number of Siberian Ibex, the snow leopard key prey, is critical. During summer monitoring our experts witnessed not more than 60 ibexes on several groups of ungulates, the total number of Siberian Ibex in the surveyed area and on the neighboring areas is not more than 1000 animals. This amount of prey neither can provide for the sustainability of the snow leopard population nor for its growth. We presume that small animals are the key prey species for snow leopards on the Eastern Sayan Ridge in Buryatia. The restoration of the wild ungulates population is the major challenge to save a snow leopard in the area.
Munku-Sarkin Mountain Ridge.
Dmitry Bekhterev, a member of Asia-Irbis Working Group, WWF expert during field survey.
Sergey Malykh, a member of Asia-Irbis Working Group, WWF expert during field survey.
World around You foundation supported snow leoaprd monitoring on Eastern Sayan Ridge.
Local volonteers.
Snow leopard monitoring on the Eastern Sayan
(c) WWF / Asia-Irbis Working Group

During summer searching for snow leopards’ tracks WWF experts drove over three thousand kilometres along the main roads only to get to the starting point of the field expeditions. They hiked, rode on a horseback, drove and went by boat another two thousand kilometers along the field roads. The field workers set the camera traps, mapped the spots where they came across the tracks of snow leopard, marking spots or scratches, collected the fur and scat for DNA analyses. 12 experts took part in field studying and data collecting in 2017. They were the experts of Asia-Irbis Working Group (Irkutsk City), local people and several some tourists who volunteered to assist the experts.

This year MMS camera traps, which are digital trail cameras with MMS function, were set in Buryatia. The cameras work automatically sending MMS to the experts’ mobile phones or emails right at the moment the image is captured. In case of capturing the image of snow leopard the experts can go to the field immediately.  

WWF claims that for an effective snow leopard conservation in Buryatia the complex approach is needed to be applied. Establishing of protected areas, antipoaching activities, raising livelihood of local people and restoration of wild ungulates population. 

The experts and volonteers during autumn monitoring.
Setting the basic camp.
Dmitry Bekhterev found a snow leoaprd marking spot.
Camera traps on the Eastern Sayan Ridge.
Field survey
(c) WWF / Asia-Irbis Working Group

According to WWF’s data the Eastern Sayan Ridge in Republic of Buryatia is a habitat for one of the key snow leopard population in Russia from 9 to 14 animals. The population number has been estimated as a results of monitoring made on the initiative of WWF Altai-Sayan Programme supported by World Around You Foundation of Siberian Health Corporation.

Up-to-date snow leopard monitoring started on the Eastern Sayan Ridge in Republic of Buryatia started in 2012 but to the harsh weather and landscape conditions the area has not been totally surveyed so far. Every year the expert monitor a part of the area expanding the monitoring territory, reaching for the most remote spots of the Eastern Sayan Ridge. By this moment about 80% of the whole snow leopard habitats in Eastern Sayan has been surveyed. Field experts search for the tracks of snow leopard, scratches and marking stones, set camera traps, collect fur and scat for DNA analyzes, visually monitor the prey number with specific focus on Siberian ibex, snow leopard key prey of snow leopard in Russia. 

First snow leopard monitoring expeditions in Republic of Buryatia took place in 1991-1997 under the leadership of Evgeniy Kashkarov who still works in the region. Several organizations have been initiated and supported snow leopard field survey in the region for the last several years, first of all they were A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution and Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF Russia.

This year for the first time in Buryatia WWF experts and partners while field survey used a new snow leopard monitoring programme developed by WWF In 2017. Moreover they set MMS camera traps. 

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