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WWF Russia confirms the presence of at least 51 snow leopards in Russia

10 june 2020
WWF sums up the results of the snow leopards survey in Russia in 2020

The annual count of the snow leopard population has been completed in Russia. The work was carried out from February to May 2020 on the territories of the Republics of Altai, Tuva and Buryatia, which cover 70% of the snow leopard habitat in our country. The count was initiated by the WWF Russia with the participation of employees of state and public organizations for protection of the animal world. In 2020, the work was financially supported by the World Around You Foundation of the Siberian Wellness Corporation.

WWF Russia confirms the presence of 51 snow leopards, including 39 adults and 12 cubs in 7 broods.  35 snow leopards have been registered in the Altai, 11 in Tuva, and 5 in the Republic of Buryatia.  

Expeditions took part in the Republics of Altai, Tyva and Buryatia
(c) WWF / А. Kuksin, Sailyugemsky NP, the Directorate of PAs of Altai, Asia-Irbis NGO, L. Takhanov
"This year we are confident that at least 51 snow leopards live in Russia. It means that this is the number of individuals recorded by automatic cameras and registered by participants of the count based on the traces of life activity. However, the WWF estimates the number of snow leopards in our country at 70–90 individuals, and it has remained stable since 2015, when WWF Russia first initiated large-scale population counts in key groups," says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Coordinator of the WWF's representative office in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion.

Participants of the count surveyed the snow leopard habitat in accordance with the snow leopard monitoring program, the first method for calculating the number and assessing the state of the snow leopard population in Russia. WWF Russia prepared and presented this program in 2016. The experts used a mobile app for snow leopard tracking developed by Next GIS (Moscow) in 2018 at the initiative of WWF Russia.

Snow leopards captured by camera traps in 2020.
(c) WWF
"This year, there was no decrease in the number of snow leopards, despite the fact that in 2020, experts recorded 51 individuals of snow leopards against 65 individuals in 2019. The fact is that due to the abnormally warm winter and adverse weather conditions, most of the habitats of the snow leopard this season could not be examined. For example, in Gorny Altai, in winter, the Argut river — the main waterway in the place of the survey — did not freeze, and the experts simply could not cross it to get to the other bank. In February, it suddenly rained, and on the thick crust of ice instead of snow the tracks were almost invisible. The work of experts was complicated by high snow cover, and the tracks of animals were blown by a strong wind and snowfall," says Alexander Karnaukhov, senior coordinator of WWF office in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion.

In the Republic of Altai, the work was performed by employees of Sailyugemsky National Park and the Directorate of Protected Areas on the Severo-Chuisky, Yuzhno-Chuisky, Katunsky, Kuraisky, and Sailyugem ranges. In the Republic of Tuva, the count was done by employees of the Uvs Nuur Basin Reserve on the Chikhachev, Mongun-Taiga, Tsagan-Shibetu, and Shapshalsky ranges. In the Republic of Buryatia the Asia-IRBIS NGO and Tunka National Park surveyed the Bolshoy Sayan, Kitoi and Tunka ranges.

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