Photo proof of snow leopards in newly created refuge in Siberia
Camera trap images have been taken of snow leopards in the newly created National Park of Sylyugem National Park in the Altai mountains of Siberia.
Aleksei Kuzhlekov, a national park researcher, reports that, “four pictures of snow leopard were taken at different times, probably of three or four individuals”.
The Saylyugem National Park was created five years ago to protect wildlife in that region of Siberia, especially the snow leopard and argali mountain sheep, in an area totaling 118,380 hectares.
The creation of the reserve was much needed, because poachers had killed more than 10 snow leopards in the area in the 1990s alone, to sell their pelts and body parts on the black market for Chinese medicine.
The snow leopard is in the endangered category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with as few as 4,000 left in the world, of which only 2,500 are likely to be breeding.
The head of the local conservation department, Igor Ivanitsky, adds: “We were able to place the cameras in the right place by painstakingly working out the movements routes of the cats.
“Being then so successful with our camera trapping efforts tells us that the park is their main home and hunting ground.
“Park staff have also found snow leopard tracks and scats (droppings) in several places around the national park, giving further evidence that the big cats are thriving in their newly created refuge.”
Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director of Biosphere Expeditions, which assisted in the creation of the new National Park says he is delighted with the news.
“We spent ten years working in the Altai, researching snow leopard presence, building local capacity and trying to create economic incentives for local people to keep their snow leopard neighbours alive.
“When we started, there was no national park, little awareness, research or infrastructure, and rampant poaching.
“Now we have a national park, national park staff, anti-poaching patrols, several research initiatives, much more awareness and many ways for local people to benefit from the presence of the snow leopard.
“Poaching continues to be a threat, as is the Altai gas pipeline, but all in all this is a remarkable turnaround and success story, and we are very proud to have played our part in this.
“We’ve had many successes through citizen science voluntourism over the years and this is yet another excellent illustration of how citizen science-led conservation expeditions can make a genuine difference.”
For more information visit Sailugemsky National Park and Biosphere Expeditions.