First in Russia statue of the snow leopard erected by WWF
Russia, 1 October, 2018 – Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF Russia successfully built the first monument of the snow leopard to draw attention to the need for rare predator conservation. The monument comprises a composition of three figures of snow leopard, a female and two cubs killed by local poachers in 2013.
The monument stands in the center of Kosh-Agach Village of the Republic of Altai located in one of the key snow leopard habitats in Russia. Kosh-Agach District is the most remote and upland area of the Republic of Altai located in Southern Siberia at the junction of Russia, Mongolia and China. Altai is the key area snow leopard conservation programme for Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF Russia as about 50% of all snow leopard population lives in the area.
The statue erected in memory of the Vita, female snow leopard and two of her cubs who died being caught in the poachers wire snares.
Poaching remains one of the key threats to snow leopard across all habitat in Russia. WWF experts and partners presume that the snaring is not obligatory targeted at snow leopard but at the other species such as musk deer. The snow leopard is occasionally caught in a wire loop and becomes an unexpected trophy for a poacher.
The idea to build the monument was supported in 2018 by WWF partner, Pernod Ricard Rouss that has been supported the snow leopard conservation project in Altai-Sayan ecoregion since 2015. The programme implied involvement of local hunters into snow leopard conservation. The local dwellers set camera traps, remove snares and report on violation. If the snow leopards are still registered by cameras in the area the hunter is responsible for he receives the award equal to the income, he might receive having sold the skin.
Vita’s story is one of the well-known tragic stories of the snow leopard in Russia. Vita along with Kryuk snow leopard was the first snow leopard in the Republic of Altai ever captured by camera traps in 2012. The first ever snow leopard camera trapping started in Altai in 2010 with WWF support. The cameras were set with the help of Altaisky Nature Reserve experts and local people including Victor Samoilov, the dweller of the Inegen village. Victor who was a part of each expedition and became truly inspired by conservation efforts of WWF who was eager to get the images of the elusive animals. He dreamed about seeing a snow leopard in the wild and showing the animal to his kids. It took two years for the experts to get the first images of the snow leopard. Unfortunately, Viktor Samoilov did not manage to see the images as he tragically died in 2012 and could not see the first images of the rare animal captured by the camera set by him. Two animals were captured in the Argut River valley that is one of the key habitats of snow leopard in Russia. The female snow leopard was named Vita after Victor Samoilov. She was suddenly lost by experts as she has never been caprtured by camera since 2013. WWF experts presumed Vita could have been migrated to Mongolia. Only in 2015 the experts of Sailugemsky National Park received the information from the local people that the female with two cubs were caught in snares. First two cubs were caught and later the female.
According to the data of the latest snow leopard monitoring in Russia of 2018 the number of the snow leopards.