Six key snow leopards habitats in the Republics of Tyva, Altai and Buryatia will be surveyed
National snow leopard survey starts in Russia on February, 14. The snow leopard census is a traditional method to track conservation efforts and asses the population condition. The snow leopard remains one of the most elusive and poorly studied big cats on Earth. In Russia the species is so rare that every individual counts and annual census is very important to evaluate the threats level and the number and distribution of the population as well as study the predator’s prey base ad behavior.
“Snow leopard census in 2020 will take place in February-March when the snow leopards have a mating season. The animals’ activity rises, they start mark more often leaving urine sprays for the other individuals to find them easier. So it makes it easier for the experts to find the snow leopard as well. Moreover, the paw prints are easy to be spotted on snow”, says Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Project Coordinator of Altai-Sayan programme of WWF-Russia.
In 2020 WWF-Russia’s partners, the experts of protected areas, local conservation non-governmental organizations will survey six key snow leopard habitats in the Republics of Altai, Tyva and Buryatia searching for the paw prints on snow, scratches of claws on the wood, sprays of urine on rocks and scat – the marks the scientists can examine to track the snow leopard because the snow leopard is so elusive that meeting the animal is an incredible luck. The camera trapping is also an enourmously helpful method to monitor the elusive cat. The scat and fur will be collected for the DNA-analyses. The final results of the survey WWF will announce in April.
The experts in three regions use the same methodology and census approach to make the results measurable and trustworthy. This snow leopard monitoring programme was developed with WWF Russia support in 2016. Since 2017 it has been successfully tested and proved to be useful and applicable in Russia.
This year all experts will use the smartphones with the special application developed by WWF-Russia and Russian IT-company for the snow leopard census in 2018. The application is a true innovation. It was successfully tested in 2019 by field experts and successfully replaced old-fashioned paper registration forms saving time and of the experts in the field. All new data on snow leopards will be uploaded on online server with limited access. The other countries in snow leopard range such as India, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan plan to adapt the software for their national census. All new data collected during the survey in Russia on new or already known by expert’s individuals will be added to the unique online database “Irbis” developed by WWF in 2016.
This year the census is supported by WWF-Russia’s corporate partner World Around You Foundation of Siberian Wellness corporation. The participants will get gasoline, equipment, camera traps, travel expenditures will be covered.
The participants of the census are: Sailugemsky and Tunkinsky Natuonal Parks, Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina Nature Reserve, the Directorate of Protected areas of the Republic of Altai, Asia-Irbis NGO.
Photo in the headline by Rafael Ketsyan.