A new female snow leopard with two cubs spotted in Buryatia
The news is inspiring and means that the snow leopard population in Buryatia is in good condition and the landscape is favorable. The discovery indicates the suitable habitat for the snow leopard, but the experts are sure that urgent measures are needed to preserve the snow leopard grouping in the Eastern Sayan. The threats are great: poaching, climate change, low awareness of local people. WWF say the urgent measures have to be taken to save this fragile group.
The traces of an unknown female snow leopard and two of its kittens were found by experts in the Okinsky district of Buryatia during the autumn field expedition which is dedicated to study the snow leopard. Also the discovery of the traces of already known two individuals of the snow leopard in completely new areas of the mountain range Munku-Sardyk and Tunkinsky range.
«The traces of another female snow leopard with kittens were fixed by experts during the winter works. The fact that a new female with a new offspring has appeared is very encouraging - given the recent conclusions about a certain decrease in the number of snow leopards in the region» says Alexander Karnaukhov, the coordinator of the Altai-Sayan branch of WWF. - There are already two broods per season - this is an excellent result. He says that the grouping of the snow leopard on the East Sayan ridge is full and viable. WWF and partners identified 8 snow leopards in the area but the only one male is the resident. The other animals migrate from Buryatia to Mongolia and the neighboring regions and back.
«Of these individuals, one snow leopard inhabits Buryatia. The scientists called him Dimka,» says Sergey Malykh, the head of the expedition and the scientific working group «Asia-Irbis». - In February 2012 Dimka became the first snow leopard caught by a phototrap in the East Sayan Ridge. The cameras continues capturing his presence within the borders of Tunkinsky National Park. The remaining individuals of the snow leopard are nomads. They come to Buryatia, remain several months, and then leave for Priugsugulia - to the territory of Mongolia. '
In 2016 - 2017 years the experts plan the further survey of the area and the study of the poorly-studied Eastern Sayan groups of the snow leopard. This will make it possible to understand whether the number of rare predators is changing, to determine the habitat of the snow leopard and to develop effective measures for protecting the snow leopard.
The research and conservation of the snow leopard in Buryatia is carried out with the financial and resource support of the Altai-Sayan branch of the WWF and the Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IPEE RAS). The autumn expedition is part of a two-year action plan to preserve the snow leopard in the Eastern Sayan, which was developed on the initiative of WWF by a number of specialists and organizations of Buryatia and the Irkutsk region.
The support for autumn field work was provided by the WWF Altai-Sayan Programme and the participants of the expedition were Irkutsk experts of the Asia-Irbis working group, the Podari Planet Zhizn Foundation and the scientists of A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution.
According to Alexander Karnaukhov, for saving the East Sayan snow leopard group in our country, it is necessary to strengthen international environmental cooperation with neighboring countries in the snow leopard area, to create new protected natural areas in snow leopard habitats, to cultivate a caring attitude among locals and to combat poaching .
According to the WWF estimation there are about 80-90 snow leopard, in general the number of the species remains stable. The main threats to the snow leopard everywhere are poaching, mainly using wire loops, more often installed on musk deer, a decrease in the number of ungulates (especially the Siberian mountain goat).