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Премия рунета 2017

A snow leopard called Champion spotted in Buryatia

20 march 2020
WWF Russia continues wide-scale snow leopard census, good news from the Bolshoy Sayan Ridge

The preliminary results of the expedition to the Bolshoy Sayan ridge in the Republic of Buryatia in Russia proves the presence of at least two snow leopards. The snow leopard monitoring in the Republic of Buryatia is a part of annual snow leopard census in Russia has been initiated by Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF Russia since 2016. In 2020 the snow leopard census in Russia was supported by WWF corporate partner, World Around You foundation of Siberian Wellness.

The expedition participants were the biologists and volunteers of Asia-Irbis non-governmental organization, WWF partner in the region. The results are preliminary, the final data of the census will be presented by WWF at the end of April, 2020.

Asia-Irbis NGO while snow leopard monitoring
(c) WWF / Segey Malykh
“The snow is thicker than last year, so it makes the tracking harder because some tracks are covered with snow. In one spot we came across the track of animals’ paw prints that were hard to identify but later we were lucky to find the clear tracks of snow leopards close to the first chain of paw prints. A snow leopard walked here about two weeks ago and one of our photo trap captured him. The size of the paw prints was equal to the snow leopard we know. His tracks we already met this year. We know the female snow leopards have not visited the area for two years or more. So we presume that the tracks belong a well-known male called Champion. He was called Champion by local people who joined our census in 2019”, says Sergey Malyjh, WWF expert, Head of Asia-Irbis NGO.
The snow leopards of the Bolshoy Sayan ridge
(c) WWF / Sergey Malykh

During the snow leopard census on the Bolshoy Sayan ridge the experts surveyed all potential snow leopard habitats such as the open river valleys with little frozen rivers that the snow leopards prefer to walk on in winter. The expedition participants did about 100 km by foot dragging the specific sledges with the cargo staying in hunters’ huts or tents.   

The snow leopard habitats in the Republic of Buryatia had been considered just a transit zone for snow leopards before the profound studies of snow leopard population began in 2016 with WWF support and initiative. Since the start of the annual survey by WWF and the biologists of Asia-Irbis Working group the snow leopard males, females and cubs have been registered in the Republic by camera trapping and tracking. The scientists proved that at least nine snow leopards inhabit the mountain area permanently. 

Asia-Irbis NGO while snow leopard monitoring
(c) WWF / Sergey Malykh
“In Russia we face the lack of professional experts in snow leopard conservation. It is hard to find enough specialists that can both do exhausting field research in the difficult conditions and efficiently analyze the scientific data. For instance, in Buryatia WWF has only two-three qualified experts we partner. They have to organize long expeditions and survey hundreds of kilometers staying in tents as there are no protected areas in the Republic of Altai”, says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior project coordinator of Altai-Sayan programme of WWF Russia.

Wide –scale snow leopard census in 2020 started in mid-February in the republics of Altai, Tyva and Buryatia, key snow leopard habitats in Russia. The participants follow the regulations of the Snow leopard monitoring programme developed by WWF Russia in 2016 and use the mobile application developed in 2019.

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