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WWF discovered a new snow leopard habitat near Mongolian border

20 april 2021
Five new snow leopards have been spotted by automatic cameras set by local herders

WWF registered a new snow leopard habitat in Russia. Scientists now have reliable photo and video evidence of the presence of 5 new snow leopards on the South Chuisky Ridge. The South Chuya ridge had not been considered an important site for snow leopard survey before. The length of the ridge is more than 100 km. Sailugemsky national park’s scientists with WWF support have been conducting long-term monitoring in the eastern and central parts of the ridge but its western part has not been studied yet. 

Single snow leopards captured on the South Chuya ridge
(c) WWF
“What’s peculiar about this finding is that the automatic cameras that captured snow leopards in a new area were installed not by professional inspectors or biologists, but by local residents. They are new participants of WWF project to involve the local residents of the Kosh-Agach District of Altai in protecting the snow leopard,” says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Project Coordinator of the WWF Representative Office in the Altai-Sayan ecoregon.
The expedition to the South Chuya ridge of 2018 of WWF and Sailugemsky NP
(c) WWF

The local herders set camera traps at the beginning in January, 2021. The cameras caught five new snow leopards: a female with two grown-up kittens and two single individuals. Moreover, the female is likely to be the one that attacked the cattle of the local herder. The herder reported about the attack to the scientists of Sailugemsky national park this spring. Another snow leopard has been captured by cameras often so the scientists presume he is the dominant male in the area as he was so active lately and travelled long distances. 

The female snow leopard with two cubs that is belived to kill cattle of the local herder

“This year, to study and protect the snow leopard, we involved six local residents of Altai Republic of Russia to protect the snow leopard: four guys have already worked with us, and two are new volunteers. The new volunteers are not hunters, they are pastoralists who live exactly in the places where the snow leopard lives, know the area well, and even saw the snow leopard live. Herders will help us not only to study the area, but also to report on environmental violations. Given the risk of a snow leopard attacking livestock in this area, it is extremely important for us to treat the predator with care,” says Denis Gulyaev, senior researcher at the Saylyugem National Park.

Since the beginning of the year, five volunteers of the project have already made exits in search of traces of the snow leopard's life: paw prints, scratches on trees, urine marks, camera trapping and removing poachers’ snares. Volunteers patrol hard-to-reach areas, where this winter the snow cover is very high, but there is no other way to get to the automatic cameras.

Read more about the project of WWF Russia to involve local residents into snow leopard conservation: https://wwf.ru/en/resources/news/altay/pyatnadtsat-snezhnykh-barsov-altaya-vozmut-pod-okhranu-mestnye-zhiteli/

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