Snow leopard’s survival depends on joint efforts of several countries
Among big cats the snow leopard, or Irbis, is the only one who constantly lives in the highlands and personifies majestic, mysterious and harsh world of Central Asian Mountains. Irbis belongs to the poorly explored species. He inhabits the territory of 13 countries: Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Because of the inaccessibility of his habitats, the most important aspects of Irbis biology remain weakly studied up to now and it makes difficult the development of adequate conservation steps. For example, the number of wild snow leopards is approximate – from 3 to 7 thousands species. According to the WWF estimates, there are about 200 snow leopards in Russia, all – within the Altai-Sayan Mountain country. In 2002 WWF Russia developed a “Strategy for conservation of the snow leopard in Russian Federation” adopted by the national government.
The available snow leopard habitat in Mongolia totals a range of about 80,000 – 100,000 km2 with a population about 1000 (it is believed to be 13-22 percent of global population). WWF Mongolia has conducted the snow leopard conservation project for 8 years starting in 1997 in Turgen and Tsagaan Shuvuut Protected Areas of Altai-Sayan ecoregion. This project was a classical flagship species project with a high potential to become a model for integrated species and ecosystem conservation with a broad approach and partnership between governmental and private conservation agencies, scientists, and local people.
In September 2008 the director of Tibetan “Plateau Perspectives” Marc Foggin with his colleagues visited Mongolia. On the workshop with WWF Mongolia and WWF Russia he told about the conservational work in Qinghai Province (China) focused on the conservation of the snow leopard, black-necked crane and Tibetan antelope. One of the methods of their work is involving local communities to conservation. For example, some communities already initiated the monthly monitoring of the snow leopard. Similar activities are being implemented in the Mongolian part of the Altai-Sayans. In Russia WWF works on new protected areas establishing and poaching level reducing.
- Both in Tibet and in the Altai-Sayans the reasons of the snow leopard population decreasing are the same: poaching, illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss, - says Onon Yo., WWF Mongolia Species Programme Manager. - That’s why it’s very important to share information and lessons learnt to save the snow leopard.