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About 3-6 snow leopards inhabit Eastern Kazakhstan

27 july 2022
Katon-Karagai National Park in Eastern Kazakhstan, the Kazakh part of Altai-Sayan, hosts at least snow leopards. WWF claims, the habitats of the rare predator are limited by habitats of Siberian ibex.

The scientists of Wildlife Without Borders Public Foundation (Kazakhstan) make these conclusions based on scientific research and information from the Katon-Karagay National Park in 2021-2022.

The field study of snow leopard in Eastern Kazakhstan in 2021-2022 work was supported by the WWF Russia and Pernod Ricard Kazakhstan. Expeditions to install and test camera traps and anti-poaching raids were carried out from February to May  together with employees of the Katon-Karagay National Park, Archatinsky Forestry and the Department of Protection and Reproduction of Wildlife.

Установка фотоловушек совместно с сотрудниками Катон-Карагайского нацпарка в феврале 2022 года.
Установка фотоловушек совместно с сотрудниками Катон-Карагайского нацпарка в феврале 2022 года.
Установка фотоловушек совместно с сотрудниками Катон-Карагайского нацпарка в феврале 2022 года.
Проверка фотоловушек совместно с сотрудниками Катон-Карагайского нацпарка в мае 2022 года.
Проверка фотоловушек совместно с сотрудниками Катон-Карагайского нацпарка в мае 2022 года.
Checking camera-traps in Katon-Karagai National Park
(c) WWF / Wildlife Without Borders Public Foundation
“When we were installing camera traps, we found traces of a snow leopard in two places. The cameras were placed where the snow leopard likes to move: on steep rocky slopes, in habitats of Siberian ibex, the main prey of the snow leopard. Snow leopards passed in front of two camera traps six times. An analysis of the pattern of spots showed that this is the same individual, most likely a three-year-old female, which the cameras have already recorded in 2000 and 2021,” says Aleksey Grachev, coordinator of the snow leopard conservation project in Kazakhstan, head of the theriology laboratory of the Institute of Zoology RK.
Снимок 2022 года.
Снимок 2020 года. Та же особь.
Snow leopard female in Katon-Karagai National Park
(c) WWF / Wildlife Without Borders Public Foundation

The participants of field survey claim that the snow leopard became cautious and tried to avoid close contact with camera traps. When an animal spotted cameras, he was squared and tried to hide and quickly leave the location of the camera traps.

Experts conclude that the habitats of snow leopards in the Katon-Karagai National Park are limited with habitats of its prey, the Siberian ibex. The traces of snow leopards are abandon in these areas, as well as images taken by camera-traps. Apart snow leopards, cameras captured mountain goats, musk deer, bears, lynxes and wolverines.

Brown bear's track found during field trip
(c) WWF / Wildlife Without Borders Public Foundation

Last November, employees of the Wildlife Without Borders Public Foundation also surveyed the Saur Mountains, but did not find the presence of a snow leopard. Nevertheless, local residents tell about meetings with the snow leopard, which requires a separate check and verification.

In addition to scientific research, scientists also patrolled the habitats of the snow leopard in the Katon-Karagai National Park together with the staff of the national park, rangers and game managers of hunting grounds.

Group of rangers patrolling the snow leopard habitats in Katon-Karagaisky National Park
(c) WWF / Wildlife Without Borders Public Foundation
“Poaching and illegal wildlife trade was common in the region in the 90th of the last century and at the beginning of the 2000th, but became rare last years. The new protected areas were a great help. helped. For example, the Katon-Karagai National Park with an area of 64.34 km2, the largest national park in Kazakhstan, covers almost all the main areas of snow leopard in Eastern Kazakhstan. Probably, the reason for the decrease in the number of snow leopards in the Kazakh part of Altai was the accidental capture of snow leopards in traps and sanres set by poachers for musk deer and brown bear, the derivatives (body parts) of which are in great demand on the market, ”concludes Aleksey Grachev, project coordinator for conservation of the snow leopard in Kazakhstan, head of the laboratory of theriology of the Institute of Zoology of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The scientists assure that today Katon-Karagay National Park is well protected. This will help restore the snow leopard population. Employees of the Wildlife Without Borders are studying the snow leopard in East Kazakhstan using modern research methods: visual observation through binoculars, registration of traces of vital and marking activity of the snow leopard (prey remains, excrement, urinary points, scratches on the ground and snow, scratches on trees and rocks, trail tracking, automatic cameras. Scientists work using a standardized snow leopard monitoring program developed at the initiative of the WWF Russia in 2018 and approved by the ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation. 

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Senior Project сoordinator