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The oldest snow leopard of Russia roams along the Chikhacheva ridge

24 september 2021
WWF claims that creating the protected are on the Chikhacheva ridge is crucial to save the snow leopard population

Snow leopard male named Khorgai has become the only snow leopard recorded by WWF camera traps on the Chikhachev Ridge in the Altai Republic since June. In the same period of 2020, automatic cameras recorded eight snow leopards on the ridge. The study participants noted the low number of wild ungulates on the Chikhachev Ridge - Altai mountain sheep and Siberian ibex - the main prey of the snow leopard. Near the border with the Republic of Tuva researchers heard gun shots, on the neighboring Kuraisky ridge, they found empty cases from a carbine.

Khorgai snow leopard near the marking stone.

These results were reported by the participants of the snow leopard monitoring expedition, which took place from 8 to 19 September 2021 on the Chikhachev Ridge and Kuraisky Ridge under the leadership of the senior researcher of the Altai Nature Reserve, WWF expert Sergei Spitsyn. Field work became possible thanks to the support of the Altai Nature Reserve, the Association of Volunteer Centers, WWF Russia and the World Around You Foundation of the Siberian Wellness Corporation and at the personal expense of Russian volunteers. The expedition members checked 43 automatic cameras installed 20 new cameras, observed at least 38 Altai mountain sheep and 24 Siberian ibex.

This year, the volunteers received 20 camera traps as gifts and a set of batteries and memory cards from Igor Skvortsov, a private donor.  

The participants of the expedition.
(с) Inna Sidorenko
“WWF claims, that the Chikhachev Ridge demands the protection status. The recent growth of uncontrolled tourism and poaching could lead to a catastrophic decline in the snow leopard population,” says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Project Coordinator of WWF's Altai-Sayan Ecoregion.

Camera traps recorded a snow leopard named Khorgai. A male snow leopard returned from Mongolia to the southern part of the Chikhachev Ridge in the Altai Republic in early summer. In summer, Khorgai gradually moved along the ridge to the north and in early September was recorded in the middle part of the Chikhachev ridge near the border of the Republic of Tuva. The researchers conclude: the individual site of the male is at least 750 sq. km. Most likely, the snow leopard is forced to travel such huge distances in search for food, which proves the deplorable situation with the number of wild ungulates on the Chikhachev Ridge.

Camera-trapping on the Chikhacheva ridge.
(с) Anna Shubina, Vyacheslav Zametnya, Lubov Morits,
Cameras recorded a brown bear on the Chikhachev ridge, this happened for the first time in my memory!", says Sergey Spitsyn.

Volunteers noted that Pallas' cat are registered more often and the brown bear was captured for the first time.

Pallas cat
(c) WWF / Altaisky Nature Reserve

The Chikhachev Ridge is a snow leopard habitat on the border between Russia and Mongolia. Access to the 100-meter border zone is completely closed to civilians, but it is there area the snow leopards are very active. WWF thanks employees of the Border Directorate of the Federal Security Service of Russian Federation of the Altai Republic for checking the camera traps in the border zone.

The next expedition to the Chikhachev Ridge by experts and volunteers is scheduled for the spring of 2022.

For additional information please contact
Altai-Sayan ecoregional press-officer
Senior Project Coordinator