Herders of upland Mongun-Taiga Area in Republic of Tuva learn to value snow leopard
Herders of South-Western Tuva still live of life of their ancestors. The people live on selling meat and sheep. Loss of a single sheep is a disaster for them as herding remains the main occupation for the dwellers for Tuva. The tuvinian people are not ready to share their cattle with the snow leopard that neighbors his home range with herders. They tend to shoot the animal as a revenge for cattle loss which is the main threat for a snow leopard in South-Western Tuva.
WWF along with Ubsunurskaya Hollow Nature Reserve started the project of educating the herders and involving them into conservation project.
“We are sure that it is crucial to have the herders interested in snow leopard conservation by involving them into research through conservation education, Mikhail Paltsyn, WWF Project Coordinator said. - Moreover the incentive system is planned to be introduced for the herders who can tolerate snow leopards on their pastures. So we are planning to organize a sort of “ecosystem payment” for local herders from private donors and commercial companies for conservation of snow leopards Herders must benefit from neighboring with snow leopard much more than from killing them.
Snow leopard camera-trapping monitoring programme in Mongun-Taiga Area started in October, 2011. About 21 camera-traps were set in the snow leopard habitats. Several local dwellers were involved as volunteers.
The local people of Mongun – Taiga were also taught to operate the camera – traps to fix the snow leopard presence. As soon as the herder is informed about the predator’ attack on livestock he has to set a camera trap on the spot. The images of a snow leopard serve as a proof of a snow leopard presence in the area which secures the chance for a family to obtain an incentives for snow leopard conservation.
“Camera-trapping as well will help to identify who was the real “committer of a crime” – a wolf or a snow leopard, says Alexander Kuksin, Ubsunurskaya Hollow Nature Reserve. Herders often blame a snow leopard for all attacks on livestock. We should show the difference between a wolf – a common game species abandon in Russia - and the rare snow leopard. We should teach them to be tolerant and proud of living on the same land with “Irbis”. Also the images of the leopards will be very necessary to organize the system of incentives for herders saving snow leopards”.
This winter there were only several reports on snow leopard’s attack on livestock in Mongun - Taiga. The camera – traps were immediately set by locals near spot. One of the cameras registered 12 images of a snow leopard.
Totally 4 individuals of snow leopard in Mongun – Taiga and 4 in Chichacheva Ridge have been identified by the inspectors of Ubsunurskaya Hollow Nature Reserve assisted by local people.
South-Western Tuva is the most priority spot for WWF in the field of snow leopard conservation in Russia. The area may potentially support the other groups of snow leopard in Russia in Altai, the south of Krasnoyarsk Region and Khakassia. WWF estimates the total number of snow leopard in the area of Chikhacheva Ridge, Mongun-Taiga and Tsagaan – Shibetu Ridge in 15-20 individuals.
South-Western Tuva at the border of Russia and Mongolia is the most priorityimportant spotarea for snow leopard conservation in Russia. The total number of snow leopards in this area (Russian portion of Chikhachev, Mongun-Taiga and Tsagan-Shibetu Ridges) is assessed by WWF experts in 15-20 individuals. Snow leopard populations in South-Western Tuva are connected with main population core of snow leopards in Western Mongolia and can be source for supporting and restoration of smaller leopard populations in Altai, Khakasia and Krasnoyarsky Kray.