Our colleagues from WWF Russia have published a great news that female snow leopard Yu-1 came back to Sailugemsky National park with the surprise, the camera trap captured her with two cubs.
The long time not seen female snow leopard was finally captured by camera traps in of the Republic of Altai, one of key snow leopard habitats in Russia. The snow leopards in Russia is so rare that every individual counts. Especially if it is a female valuable as a mother of families.
In February Sailugemsky national park have received the camera traps’ images from a very remote corner of Altai. The images had the pictures of the female snow leopards called Yu-1 that the experts had not seen since last spring. It became obvious why she had been hiding. The two cubs follow the mother. Yu-1, the mother, had just been more elusive and shy due to her little cubs. The pictures are from last September and the cubs are about 4 months old. Having two cubs is quite ordinary for snow leopards. Rarer they bring three cubs however in 2018 the snow leopard with four cubs was captured by WWF cameras in Sailugemsky national park.
“We last registered Yu-1 last spring and started worrying about her however we expected she might have had cubs and just been elusive and migrated to a more remote corner of the region”, says Denis Malikov, Science Director of Sailugemsky national park.
Altai-Sayan programme of WWF-Russia has been following Yu-1, the female snow leoaprd’s life since 2016 when she was first captured by cameras. These cubs are her second litter seen by scientist. First she was registered with cubs at the beginning of 2019. The cubs were already grown-up so presumably they separated with a mother in spring and Yu-1 was free for another “marriage”. It is obvious that she mated successfully in summer. The scientist believe they even knew her “fiancé”. It must have been a male snow leopard called Yunchi whose individual territory is close to hers.
The long photo session of Yu-1 is special due to the special photographer that makes it. It is the local hunter Mergen Markov who is one of the participants of the unique project of WWF-Russia, Sailugemsky national park and Pernod Ricard company. The project involves local hunters and poachers into snow leopard conservation. In 2019 Mergen became a winner of an independent Russian project “Pride of Russia”.
“Today we have eight local hunters who used to poach snow leopards. All of them now have a specific area of snow leopard habitat that he patrols. They remove snares, report on wildlife crimes and set camera traps. If the snow leopards are caught by cameras by the end of the year, the hunters get a reward equal to the price of the snow leopard skin. Eventually they are getting used to the fact that a living breathing snow leopard in the long-term can bring more profit than selling a skin. WWF hopes, that gradually we can raise awareness and behavior of the local people”.
You can find out more from the website http://www.wwf.ru