The Snow Leopard Programme: zoologists plant hidden cameras in Ubsunur Hollow Nature Reserve

The Snow Leopard Programme: zoologists plant hidden cameras in Ubsunur Hollow Nature Reserve

11 January 2010

The Snow Leopard Programme was established to conduct comprehensive field studies of South Siberia’s snow leopards, also known as ounces.


The first stage of the programme, to be executed between November 18 and December 3, 2010, was based in the Mongun-Taiga area of the Ubsunur Hollow Biosphere Reserve’s buffer zone. Zoologists acquired a number of photographic images of the leopards they were tracking. The animals passed by hidden cameras on five separate occasions in October and November – three of them in the daytime. Two leopards, named Kara Kudruk and Ak Dis, were identified with certainty. Their presence in the area had been registered before. Another animal has yet to be identified. Seventy snapshots have been taken since the expedition began, 47 of them from the autumn stage of the research.


The presence of lynx was also proved for the first time in the area – a camera shot one a mere three hours before researchers appeared on the site. Altai snowcocks were photographed on mountain crests as often as before. The ibex remained scanty, as during previous stages of the expedition – they were encountered on four occasions and photographed 20 times by hidden cameras. Hares were observed and photographed quite frequently – in 58 shots spread among seven cameras. Foxes passed the cameras on many occasions, and a wolf was once photographed at a distance of 30 metres.


Apart from photographing, experts of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution also planned to track animals based on hot scent in November and December. Weather thwarted their plans, with blizzards sweeping the Tsagan-Shibetu Mountains every day. Only four leopard tracks were spotted throughout the expedition, three of them stale.


Despite bad weather, numerous wolf tracks were noticed in the Eldig-Khem basin. There are well-trodden wolf paths at the foot of Mount Arzaity, and a fresh lynx track was found on its crest. Hoofed animals were roaming the area, and many were tracked along the Arzaity and Buluktug rivers. Wild boar and musk deer were tracked on the steep left bank of the Eldig-Khem, a tributary of the Barlyk River.


The expedition crew faced more problems from bad weather when a storm tore their tent to shreds, and all five researchers had to put up in their off-roader for a week.


The institute received ample help from the reserve's management – particularly its director, Vladislav Kanzai, who lent the expedition his car, and State Inspector Dongak, who permanently assisted the crew.


The Snow Leopard Programme has continued its work in 2011.