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The snow leopard was found dead in a poacher's wire in Irkutsk region

13 april 2012
The first in many years information about the presence of snow leopards in Irkutsk region were in the criminal roundup

The skeleton of a snow leopard caught in a poacher's wire was found in Nizhneudinsk district of the Irkutsk region. Presumablly the rare animal was caught accidentally by a loop illegally set to  catch the the wolves. The appearance of the snow leopard in Tofalaria is a real sensation: the tracks of a rare animal in Irkutsk region have not been recorded for the last several years.

The remains of a snow leopard were found by the participants of a field research who went to explore the area after having heard the news. In Irkutsk Oblast Prosecutor's Office received information about the sales in the region of several snow leopard skins. In addition, law enforcement learned that the dead snow leopard strangled in the loop was found near a local village Alygdzher. The local dweller man did not believe his eyes when he saw a snow leopard instead of a wolf.  The man skinned the animal and sold the skin out to the fur dealers.

To check the information the set the expeditio to Tofalaria, said   Irkutsk Baikal Assistant West District Attorney Allen Belozertseva. - The scientists had to determine whether the remains belonged to the snow leopard.

The scientists spent weeks to get to the spot by feet and on a horseback. The skeleton of the snow leopard was discovered on the banks of the river Chelomongo.

This findings proves the existence of the snow leopard in the Irkutsk region,  said Dmitry Medvedev, the expedition leader, assistant professor of Applied Ecology and Tourism Game University, the head of the Center for the snow leopard study. - We discovered the tracks of an animal during our previous expedition and this skeleton is a crucial proof. Most likely, Nizhneudinsk area at the top of the Uda, is inhabited by a few snow leopards.

At the moment the police are looking for animal skin, because according to information two animals were caught by poachers and two sjins were offered for sale in a regional blach market.

Michael Paltsyn, WWF Project Coordinator in Altai-Sayan Branch says, Eastern Sayan ranges of the Irkutsk region is part of Altai - Sayan Mountain Country  ecosystem.

'If we have data on the number and distribution of snow leopard in the Altai, south of the Krasnoyarsk Krai and Tuva, the information about snow leopard in Irkutsk region is very sporadic. Poaching case, of course, indicates the presence of snow leopards in the area of Tofalaria. It proves that a predator is threatened the same illegal way of poaching as in the rest of Altai - Sayan. These are wire loops set on animals' tracks.

Wires cause great damage to wildlife. Wire traps is also a real danger for the snow leopard. It is monstrous that the first evidence of a snow leopard for the recent years were the news of the death of a rare predator in the wire of a poacher. This once again proves how deadly wires are for snow leopards in Russia.

WWF is making all efforts to prevent poaching by means of wires  supporting anti-poaching and educational activities for local residents of Mountain Altai, Tuva, and the south of the Krasnoyarsk Krai. Due to the constant patrols of key areas by the teams of inspectors and local people (volunteers) it was possible  to significantly reduce the number of wires in the Argut river valley  in the Altai, the Sayan-Shushenskoye reserve this year.

A snow lepard found dead in a poachers' wire in Altai (the Shapshal ridge). The photo is quite old but the problem is very up-to-date
© WWF Russia
Snow Leopard called Mongol captured by a photo-trap. The wire loop on the neck is clearly seen at a closer look. The animal torn off the wire somehow and survived.
© Ыayano-Shushensky Nature Reserve
Poachers' wires confiscated by the rangers in Altai.
© WWF Russia