New snow leopards found on the Ukok Plateau
Snow leopard monitoring in one of the most remote habitat at the junction of Russia, Mongolia and China brings some surprises.
Since January 2018 minimum 5 snow leopards have been fixed by camera traps on the Ukok Plateau. About 300 images of the snow leopards have been captured. The female snow leopard who was called Yuzhanka (Southerner) and two of her cubs whose images became the sensation in 2017 are safe and sound. The cubs have grown up and look well. The cameras also captured two more snow leopards presumably males. One of them can be a father of Yuzhanka’s cubs.
The Ukok Plateau remained the blind spot among the snow leopard habitats before August 2017 when the first ever camera trap were set there by WWF, Sailugemsky National Park, Zona Pokoya Ukok Nature Park with the support of M-Video Company. The scientists expected no snow leopards to be found here due to the low density of the main prey, the Siberian ibex. However, it turns out that the small group of the rare predator minimum 5 individuals inhabits the remote plateau and deserves the protection.
The hunters of the nearby villages have been trained in camera-trapping, received equipment and field uniform to work as the voluntary assistants to the park rangers and scientists.
For instance, Myrzabek Kairymov who lives in Kosh-Agach village has participated in field expeditions several times and learned the basics of camera-trapping. He’s given a right to patrol the particular area, remove snares, set the cameras and report on violations.
It’s been 3 years since WWF has tried to involve local hunters into conservation instead of using the police methods. With the support of a corporate donor, Pernod Ricard Rouss, in partnership with Altaisky Nature Reserve and later with Sailugemsky National Park.
In 2018 within the project frameworks the local hunters received about 8k images from the camera traps out of these 8000 images there 500 images of the snow leopard. They set 20 cameras and each of them patrol the area from 40 to 123 thousand hectares.
In 2017 six ex-poachers of the remote and depressed villages near Russian-Mongolian border were involved into conservation project. The hunters of the Republic of Altai (Russia) became the voluntary helpers of the conservationists who strive to save snow leopard. All hunters involved into conservation live in the depressed villages near the border between Russia and Mongolia. The unemployment rate of the villagers amounts up to 100% and the local people survive through cattle-breeding and hunting. All of perfectly know the animals tracks and traditional hunting methods that are not always legal. Changing the attitude of local hunters towards snow leopard and raising the awareness on the importance of rare species conservation is the main target of the project initiated by WWF and Pernod Ricard Company.