WWF initiated the most ambitious census of snow leopard in Russia
The main task of survey is to identify the number of snow leopards and its prey, assess the population status. The information is necessary to improve the conservation effectiveness.
The survey will take place in Republic of Altai in the Argut River valley, Chikhachev, Yuzhno-Chui and Kuray ridges, in Republic of Buryatia and the Tunkinsky Goltsy Munku-Sardyk, Bolshoy Sayan and Kropotkinsky ridges, Republic of Tuva in Tsagan-Shibetu, Mongun-Taiga, Tannu-Ola, Khemchik ridges. The experts do field research in compliance with Snow Leopard Conservation Strategy in Russian Federation developed with WWF support and officially approved in 2014.
2017 is the first year WWF has combined the efforts of so many organizations and specialists in Russia to conduct the research of a rare predator. The data from all areas will be collected by the end of March. The results of counts will be announced by WWF Russia in May.
This year Republic of Altai and Buryatia on the initiative of WWF were selected as the model areas to test a new method of analyzing data obtained from the field research. «The new technique, called Snow Leopard Grid, was developed by WWF with specialists from the New York University,» says Alexander Karnaukhov, the Senior Project Coordinator of the Altai-Sayan Branch of WWF. - The methodology allows the use of computer modeling to analyze data collected by specialists «in field» - from the level of poaching to the density and number of groups. It will reduce the number of errors and inaccuracies, which are in the work of even the best experts.'
«Despite the fact that I have devoted more than 10 years to the protection of the snow leopard, only last year we managed to unite the efforts of specialists and to cover a significant area to work using the same methodology and approach», says Sergei Spitsyn, a senior researcher at the Altai Reserve, WWF expert. »This year in each region the state and public organizations, as well as local residents and volunteers will be involved in the field work.'
«Before starting the census in Altai on the basis of the Sailyugem National Park in the village of Kosh-Agach, an installation meeting was held, »said Denis Malikov, the deputy director for science, research and environmental monitoring at Sailyugemsky National Park. - All the participants of the surveys identified the routes, agreed on the methodology and principles of the research - from trail tracking and installing camera traps to collecting scats for analysis, etc.'
According to WWF, the number of snow leopards in Russia remains stable. In total, about 50-70 individuals inhabit the country, the presence of 53-55 of them is confirmed by the data of automatic cameras. Poaching remains the main threat for the snow leopard. Poachers hunt the animals mainly using wire snares more often set to catch the musk deer. The number of Siberian ibex, the main prey of the snow leopard, is reducing in Altai-Sayan Ecoregion. These are the reason why the number of snow leopard is diminishing too.
This year the participants of the surveys will include: Sailyugem National Park, the Altaisky and Katunsky Nature Reserves, the Directorate of Altai Nature Parks, Argali NGO, the Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina Nature Reserves, the State Game Committee of Republic of Altai, Tyva Nature Park. Tunkinsky National Park, the Irbis-Asia Initiative Group, the Regional Snow Leopard and the Give Life to the Planet, the Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences. A.N. Severtsov RAS.
The financial support was provided by VTB Bank.