Scientists prove, snow leopards dont' inhabit the Central Sayan ridge
During an expedition to Tofalaria from July 12 to August 20, biologists from Irkutsk Asia-Irbis NGO confirmed the absence of a snow leopard in the Central Sayan, despite landscapes suitable for snow leopard habitat. The expedition was supported by: WWF and the World Around You Foundation of the Siberian Wellness company.
Tofalaria on the border of the Irkutsk region and the Republic of Tuva for many years remained a blank spot on the map of snow leopard habitats. In 2012, scientists found out that a resident of the Nizhneudinsky district of the Irkutsk region found a snow leopard strangled with a wire poacher's snare. This became a sensation - rare predators in the region have not been recorded for decades. The first expedition to install camera traps on a snow leopard took place in 2017 with the support of WWF and the World Around You Foundation.
The expedition along Tofalaria went on in difficult conditions for a month and a half. Hundreds of kilometers on horseback through the deserted taiga, often only along animal trails, 18 days on foot with backpacks in the mountains, tens of kilometers on water, meeting bears, but practically not meeting people.
Of the six camera traps, only one survived, the rest were broken by brown bears, the remains of four cameras were found nearby. Flash memory cards are read only by three cameras, but the several thousands of captured images allow us to draw reliable conclusions.
According to the WWF experts, there are at least six snow leopards in Buryatia, including two cubs of the female Kucheryavaya. For comparison: during the last count of the snow leopard in 2020, the presence of 5 snow leopards was confirmed in Buryatia, but later two more cubs were recorded. In 2018, the number was estimated at 12 individuals, including four cubs.