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The tracks of marks of a snow leopard registered in Argut River valley in Mountain Altai

11 march 2012
The snow leopard was considered almost extinct here and now there is a chance for potential restoration of the Argut population.

The tracks of at least two individuals of a snow leopard and permanent marking sites were found by researchers in the remote area of the Argut River Watershed in Altai. The inspiring news gave the experts hope for potential restoration of Argut population of snow leopard. The population mostly extinct in the last century as a result of intense snare poaching in 70-90th which caused the great loss in cat’s population. Provided the snaring is completely eliminated in the snow leopard habitats Argut population can be restored in the nearest 15-20

The results of the further camera-trapping and DNA –analysis will help identify and register all the remained individuals of a snow leopard in this remote part of Argut Watershed.

In November 2011 WWF and US Fish and Wildlife Service started the project to fight and prevent snare poaching in the snow leopard habitats of Argut Watershed. Special anti-poaching team consisted of the inspectors of Altai Republic Game Management Committee, Altaiskyi Nature Reserve, “Arkhar” NGO, local people of Inegen village was organized and trained. In December 2011 – March 2012 regular patrolling was organized in the snow leopard habitats in the middle of Argut Watershed and Koir and Yungur River valleys. More than 100 snares were removed and 10 local people checked for violations. In February due to intensive patrolling no snares were found in project area.

Sergey Spitsyn, the inspector of Altaisky Nature Reserve is the Head of the snare removal group. He is assured that snare removal activities are very important for restoration of snow leopard population in Argut area but should be done jointly with alternative income development for local communities and necessary changes in Russian legislation to prevent wildlife trade. “Local communities should benefit from a snow leopard living nearby. I cannot see the other way to save snow leopard in Russia, emphasized Sergey.

The work was co-funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with assistance of Altai Project (the US).

Measuring the tracks found in Argut Valley
© WWF Russia / S. Spitsyn
Sergey Spitsyn during the monitoring in the Argut River Valley
© S. Spitsyn