New snow leopard tracks found in Tsagaan-Shibetu Mountain Ridge
The data significantly supplements the picture of the snow leopard distribution on the Tsagaan-Shibetu. Previous researchs’ priority has been study of the cross-border snow leopard groups on the border between Russia and Mongolia. According to the results of the field survey area using camera traps, conducted with the support of WWF, it was found that group of snow leopards exists in the area, it was also found that they have cross-border nature. It became apparent that some individuals of the snow leopard population migrate within a single ecosystem, divided by administrative borders.
This fall, it was decided to explore the central part of the Tsagaan - Shibetu. The employees of Mongun -Taiga Inspection from «Ubsu nuur Basin» Reserve participated in raid, with methodological support of research department of the reserve and with the support of WWF. Inspectors passed more than 60 km of hiking trails on the mountain ridge areas located higher than 3000 meters above sea level. The terrain of that area is complex, with crags, gorges and canyons.
Experts have found two tracks of snow leopard, one of which led them to its victim - the corpse of a male Siberian goat (ibex). These ungulates - the main prey of the snow leopard in the Altai -Sayan Ecoregion.
It was possible to document the ten markings on the landscape. Snow Leopard ‘Sign’ - is a kind of peculiar marks that snow leopard leaves to mark his territory. They scrape the ground with their hind legs forming a recess and spray odorous urine or leave feces with clear individual odor. These markings enable snow leopards «communicate» with each other, that is how they know who visited the territory. By these markings researchers not only learn about animal’s movement direction, but by collecting found feces for molecular genetic analysis they able to detect certain species, their gender and family relations within the group.
The continuation of snow leopard habitat’s study in the center of Tsagaan - Shibetu is extremely important, as this mountain range is the link with Shapshalskogo ridge, which together are one of the major migratory corridors for snow leopards, connecting Russia and Mongolia.
Today, WWF experts estimate the total number of snow leopards in the Republic of Tuva about 40-50 individuals. The main habitats of rare predator is on the Shapshalskogo, Tsagaan - Shibetu, East Saya, Mongun-Taiga ridges. The major threats to snow leopard in Tuva are : poaching driven by illegal trades in pelts and in body parts ( derivatives ) used for traditional Eastern medicine; «accidental» poaching when snow leopard accidental fall into the poachers’ loops, installed for catching other animals; retaliatory killings local herders to avenge livestock.