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Премия рунета 2017

Poaching of Siberian ibex threatens the snow leopard on the Bolshoi Sayan ridge

12 march 2019
The results of the Snow Leopard census in Buryatia, Russia, are not promising

At the beginning of March, 2019 the scientists of Asia-Irbis Working Group (Irkutsk) with the support of Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF Russia surveyed the snow leopard and its prey on the Bolshoi Sayan Ridge in the Republic of Buryatia. The expedition was a part of the annual snow leopard census initiated in Russia by Altai-Sayan programme of WWF Russia. The census is implemented in three regions of Russia, key snow leopard habitats of the rare predator. WWF expects to get the results on the distribution and the number of the snow leopard in Russia by the end of April, 2019.  

The track of the snow leopard was discovered on the snow. The experts measured the length and the width of the track.
Altai snowcock (Tetraogallus altaicus). The species can be the snow leopard prey.
The automatic camera set in the stones near the trail where the snow leopard is likely to appear.
Sergey Malykh, the director of “Asia-Irbis Working Group”, examines the track of the snow leopard’s paw prints.
Siberian ibex caught by camera trap.
The habitats of the snow leopard on the Bolshoi Sayan Ridge.
The habitats of the snow leopard on the Bolshoi Sayan Ridge.
The snow leopard scratch marks on the larch discovered by the experts.
The chain of the snow leopard tracks on the snow.
Danil Barashkov (right) and Dmitry Bekhteref (left), the members of “Asia-Irbis Working Group”, registered and measured the tracks on the snow.
Danil Barashkov (left) and Maxim Maistruk (right), the members of “Asia-Irbis Working Group”, before they descend from the mountain pass.
Snow leopard monitoring on the Bolshoi Sayan ridge
(c) WWF / Asia-Irbis Working Group
“In 2019 all participants of the the snow leopard census in the Russian Federation use the smartphones with the specific mobile application for the snow leopard monitoring. The programme was developed on the initiative and support of WWF Russia in 2018”, says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Coordinator of Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF Russia.

The experts proved the presence of the snow leopard on the Bolshoi Sayan ridge as the paw prints were registered. The scientists came across the tracks of one and the same snow leopard in four different places. They presume the prints belong to the male as they are quite big and massive. The experts also found the old paw prints of the snow leopard that presumably belong to the female with two cubs. The scat was collected for the DNA-analyses to prove the guessing of the scientists. Unfortunately, no new camera traps’ images of the snow leopard were obtained however other species such as brown bear, lynx, wolverine, wolf, red deer were caught by camera. For the last four years WWF experts have been registering lees and less signs of the snow leopard on the ridge. One of the main reason for the little number of the snow leopard is that the populations of Siberian Ibex—important prey for snow leopards—are in sharp decline.

Snow Leopard monitoring in Buryatia in 2018/ (c) WWF Russia / D. Bekhteref.

“We did not observe a single Siberian ibex for the whole expedition. Earlier in March we only saw the little number of ibexes in small groups. We estimate that there no more than 50-70 Siberian ibexes inhabit the area that we surveyed. The number of prey is dramatically little for the snow leopard which habitats on the Bolshoi Sayan ridge cover the area of several hundred square kilometers. If no protection and strong law enforcement is secured in the area the future of the high-mountain cats on the Bolshoi Sayan Ridge remains in doubt because of poaching of its key prey”, says Sergey Malykh, the Head of Asia-Irbis Working Group, WWF experts, the Coordinator of the snow leopard census on the Eastern Sayan Ridge. The results of the annual now leopard survey in Russia will be obtained in April as well as the results of testing the first mobile application for snow leopard monitoring.
Siberian ibex.
Brown bear.
Brown bear.
Red deer.
Red deer.
Sergey Malykh, WWF expert captured during camera tracking.
The cold winter wind.
Camera traps' images from the Bolshoi Sayan
(c) WWF / Asia-Irbis Working Group

It’s been the fourth year since the first wide scale snow leopard census was implemented in 2015 on WWF initiative. This year the census is supported by VTB-Bank, World Around You Foundation of the Siberian Wellness Corporation and Xiaomi.  Last winter snow leopard census found 61 snow leopards totally Altai-Sayan Ecoregion.

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