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For the first time in Russia four snow leoaprds filmed by smartphone

12 january 2023
For the 1st time in Russia four snow leopards filmed in the wild using an ordinary smartphone

Four snow leopards were captured by a ranger and a local citizen in the Argut river valley in Altai Republic in January, 2023, by an ordinary smartphone for the 1st time in Russia. Previously the photo of 4 snow leopards was captured in Russia only once and with the help of phototraps in 2018 in Sailugemsky National Park also in Altai Republic close to the site of seeing the 4 cats this winter.

Four snow leoaprds caught by smartphone in Altai Republic

The short video was taken by Ezen Sanakaev, a ranger of Uch-Enmek nature park during the winter raid. He first spotted animals as close as 8 metres but had to run for the mobile phone, so the video only shows cats at a long distance making their way in the daylight across the snowy harsh mountain terrain.  The video is shaky as the ranger was nervous and excited. 

‘This video is incredibly unique. WWF-Russia has been working with experts and local people for years but never we recorded that someone even spotted 4 snow leopards in the wild in Russia. Here we see that the rangers not only saw with his own eyes, he also recorded video as a prove. Snow leopards are solitary animals, only a female with cubs or grown-up cubs just separated with their mum can be spotted in a group. So, it’s clear that 4 adult cats in video are either the female with 4 cubs or 4 grown-up cubs’, says Alexander Karnaukhov, Project Coordinator of Altai-Sayan Programme of WWF-Russia.

Snow leopards normally have 2 or 3 cubs, and 4 cubs in a litter is a rare case. In Russia the female with 4 cubs was only registered once. In 2018 in the same area of the Argut river valley the phototraps of Sailugemsky National Park captured a dark night image of a female with 4 cubs. But never someone saw in the wild or filmed 4 cubs in the wild with a smartphone or an ordinary camera. 

Female snow leopard captured by Alexey Kuzhlekov, Sailugemsky NP emloyee, in 2020 in Altai Republic
(c) Alexei Kuzhlekov

The Argut valley having proved itself to be a very unique site, a key snow leopards’ habitat. It’s a remote close area with the largest in Russia population of Siberian ibex, the rare cat’s main prey.  Scientists, rangers and local people tend to spot snow leopards here more and more often. Last February a single snow leopard was captured on smartphone in 2 km away from the spot of 4 animals this year. In 2020 in the Argut valley a ranger of Sailugemsky NP took a picture of the snow leopard female from the distance of several metres.  However, such photos and cases are still extremely rare in Russia.