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In Altai Republic snow leopards compete with each other to breed

08 november 2022
At least 2 males and a female with 2 cubs inhabit the Yuzhno-Chusky range in Altai Republic

Camera trap’s video shows a snow leopard passing in front of the camera. The mounatins are covered with snow, the cat has wet fur, a little pieces of ice are seen on animal’s fur and a big flat stone is also “glued” to long hairs on the tail. The snow leopard is actively stretching like an ordinary cat after a deep sleep. A flat stone is firmly held on its tail. Obviously, the beast slept for a long time, tail turned up, the snow melted, and the stone froze tightly to the skin. In such harsh conditions, snow leopards survive in the Altai and Sayan mountains. Camera registered the time when the footage was taken. It’s 4 PM, the sun is setting, but it's time for the snow leopards to get up, as they are active at dusk.

A snow leopard with a stone stuck to its fur

“We know this snow leopard but didn’t’ name it yet. The cat has T03 abbreviation. Last year, he was first captured by camera traps on the Yuzhno-Chuysky ridge, but 15 kilometers far from this spot, where he lives now. T03 is a dominant male whose area or territory overlaps with that of another male snow leopard named Sailu. Close to the site where T03 was photographed the cameras also registered a female with cubs. Obviously, T03 and Sailu snow leopards compete for the attention of females. Males actively travel around. Siberian ibex, the main prey of the snow leopard, is abandon here, it means that the snow leopards have enough prey, the males will stay here, and we will protect them”, says Denis Gulyaev, deputy head of the Science Department of the Sailyugemsky National Park.

Sailu snow leopard

Camera traps on the Yuzhno-Chuysky Ridge were set by employees of the Sailyugemsky National Park together with residents of the Kosh-Agachsky District, that hosts almost the entire population of snow leopards in the Altai Republic. Since 2015, the project to involve local people in studying and protection of the rare cat has been implemented by WWF-Russia and Sailyugemsky National Park. The project invites herders and hunters living in the habitats of the snow leopard to become its keepers. Local residents receive training, camera traps and help conservationists to study the elusive cat, remove snares and traps of poachers.

“The project educates the residents, teaches to love and be tolerant to rare predator. This year residents of the Kosh-Agach district joined the field expeditions guided by professional biologists and employees of the Sailyugemsky National Park, who help the villagers. Scientists also use special mobile application for monitoring the snow leopard,” - says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Project Coordinator of the WWF-Russia’s Representative Office in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion.

Unfortunately, not all cameras installed to monitor the snow leopard on the Yuzhno-Chuysky Ridge were able to capture the animals. Two cameras were gnawed by wolverines, the curious beasts, that often spoil the inventory of scientists. The wolverine's fight with the camera also caught on camera, leaving an animal caught red-handed doing its “crime”.

Wolverine gnawing a camera trap

Other snow leopards were also caught by cameras: a female with cubs at night, an alert snow leopard, apparently sneaking up on prey, a large number of rare birds: Altai snowcocks, a manul walking the same trails as snow leopards.


A female snow leopard with 2 cubs

“Local people continue to monitor snow leopards in Altai. In October-December, they are still set and check camera-traps. The mountains are already covered by snow, you can easily spot snow leopards’ paw prints or other marks to find a better location for a camera. It means that we’ll have even more amazing shots of cautious, elusive snow leopards ahead. This data will help us get to know the animal better, identify individual snow leopards and develop a better conservation plans,” says Denis Gulyaev, Deputy Head of the Science Department of Sailyugemsky National Park.

Working with local residents of Altai continues, the results of the year will be summed up at the end of December - employees of the Saylyugemsky National Park will calculate how many snow leopards are under the protection of local residents.


Give your passport to the snow leopard and help save the spotted predator: bars.wwf.ru