WWF cameras with MMS are set on the Eastern Sayan Ridge
The cameras with MMS on the Eastern Sayan Ridge (Republic of Buryatia, Russia) were set by the initiative of WWF Altai-Sayan Programme and supported by World Around You Foundation in 2017. The Eastern Sayan Ridge is not the key habitat of a snow leopard in Russia but it is the area that has been very poorly studied. WWF started the serious research and monitoring of snow leopard on the Eastern Sayan Ridge several years ago but due to the harsh landscape and severe weather condition there are still areas that have to be explored. New MMS-cameras can send the MMS to the experts’ mobile phones and email in online regime. It is one of the most innovative monitoring method at the moment.
Field monitoring of snow leopard is resource-demanding, hard and exhausting task. Due to the harsh mountain terrain and cruel weather conditions of snow leopard habitats in Russia the experts spend months in the field moving along mountain ridges, crossing rivers and walking hundreds of kilometers to secure regular and effective camera trapping.
Camera traps sending MMS help to save the resources and capacities of the field experts. Collecting images via MMS means that the experts can check the cameras more rarely than they used to. They can also make an immediate response if a snow leopard is spotted in the area or the poacher is captured within the boundaries of the protected area.
At the moment the experts working on the Eastern Sayan Ridge can skip up to 50% of the exhausting field trips they make.
This summer Asia-Irbis, a working group of experts on snow leopard conservation, explored the area of the Eastern Sayan to search for the places for setting the cameras. The devices set along the ridges, near marking stone where the snow leopards are more likely to appear. For the devices in the most remote places the experts set the solar panels for to ensure the constant power supply as the cameras cannot be checked regularly to change the batteries.
According WWF Russia latest estimate of 2017, the snow leopard group in the Eastern Sayan Ridge has from 9 to 12 individuals. WWF support monitoring and antipoaching activities in the area. This year the Eastern Sayan territory was chosen by WWF as one of the model areas to test a new snow leopard methodology recently developed by WWF. The approach will help find out the exact minimum number of one of the most elusive species in the world.
In 2018 WWF Altai-Sayan programme considers enlarging the area covered with MMS-camera trapping. To send MMS regularly the SIM-cards inserted in cameras’ slots need a stable GSM coverage. Unfortunately most of the key snow leopard habitats lack GSM coverage because they are located high up in the mountains with no settlements around.That’s is why the experts of WWF Altai-Sayan Programme have to be very careful choosing the spots to set the cameras. There are only two snow leopard habitats with stable GSM coverage in Russia, the Chikhacheva Ridge and the Eastern Sayan Ridge.