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New snow leopard captured on the Yuzhno-Chuisky ridge

25 july 2022
WWF and Sailugemsky National Park analize the pattern of spot of snow leopards' skin and call for better protection of a rare cat

Two passages of the same snow leopard were recorded on video by automatic motion-sensing cameras in October and December last year in the places of the Yuzhno-Chuysky ridge, where employees of the Sailyugemsky National Park reached with a check only in the summer. The trails were inaccessible for several months due to deep snow.

In the October video, a snow leopard passes in front of the lens in the rays of the setting sun and begins to bury the ground with its hind legs. Such heaps of earth or stones that snow leopards scoop up with their paws are called scrapes and indicate to scientists the presence of an animal in the territory. The footage shows how the wind stirs last year's dry grass, but there is already snow in spots. The coat of the animal is wet, flat pebbles, blades of grass and snow stuck to it, most likely, the snow leopard just woke up and immediately paraded in front of the lens.

A new unidentified snow leopard

The second video was filmed in December, there is already snow in the mountains, the snow leopard passes by the camera lens and again rakes the ground with its hind legs. A recognizable tail is clearly visible, the hair on which is torn off, currant eyes, as if summed up at the edges, look into the camera, wide paws step on the snow.

Winter snow leopard

“This snow leopard is unfamiliar to us; the animal was captured by cameras on the Yuzhno-Chuysky ridge for the first time. The snow leopard has a distinctive tail, the tip seems to be torn off or cut off, and there is a large spot in the central part of the tail. These traits will help to easily identify the animal in the future. New snow leopards on the ridge are a good sign. This means that females and males live here, cubs are born and there is still enough food. Unfortunately, there are no protected natural areas on the ridge, the places are visited by hunters and tourists,” says Denis Gulyaev, Deputy Head of the Department of Science, Tourism and Recreational Activities.

The video of the new snow leopard was received by employees of the Sailyugemsky National Park in July as part of a project to involve local residents of Altai in the protection of the snow leopard. The villagers install and check photo and video traps, learn the habits of the beast.

During the summer expedition, employees of the Saylyugemsky National Park and local residents checked the camera traps on the South Chuya Range, the path to which was blocked by deep snow for seven months. Experts did not check all sections, the water level in the rivers is high, in some places it was necessary to storm water barriers.

Rangers and sсientists сrossing mountain rivers during expedition

“Earlier, the South Chuisky Range, which is over 100 km long, was not considered an important habitat for snow leopards in Altai. For the first time, scientists installed automatic cameras for studying snow leopards in 2018 in the eastern and central parts of the ridge. In 2019, a year later, researchers talked about the lack of food for snow leopards - wild ungulates. In 2021, camera traps confirmed the presence of at least five snow leopards on the ridge, including two cubs. Today, it is obvious that it is important to strengthen the protection of the South Chuya Range from poachers,” says Ilya Morozov, WWF project coordinator.
Summer expedition of Sailugemsky National Park
(c) WWF / Sailugemsky National Park

Today, five local residents help employees of the Sailyugemsky National Park and WWF Russia to save the snow leopard in the Altai Republic, covering two important habitats in the region - the Argut River valley and the Yuzhno-Chuysky ridge.

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