Journalists follow the trail of the snow leopard

Journalists follow the trail of the snow leopard

10 September 2012

For a week, federal and regional TV crews and print, radio and Internet correspondents travelled through the Sayan wilderness, where there are no roads, telephones or human habitation. Only natural reserve staff and scientists had covered the same route before them.


Held as part of the Wild Cats of South Siberia project, directed at the preservation of the snow leopard, the manul and the lynx, the aim of the journalistic expedition was to see how animals registered in the Red Book and close to extinction were studied in their natural habitat. The journalists walked long distances, visited scientists' lodges and farms, crossed two nature reserves, the Khakassky and Sayano-Shushensky, and the Pozarym wildlife sanctuary, and assisted in installing trail cameras.


According to Sergei Istomov, a snow leopard expert, the Sayano-Shushensky nature reserve is inhabited by Russia's only group of snow leopards. The pride consists of eight or nine animals identified with the help of trail cameras. The dominant male is the famous Mongol, the first animal in Russia to wear a satellite collar as part of the programme to study snow leopards. Scientists note, however, that stray snow leopards are registered in the reserve during the rutting season. But it is unknown where they come from or go to. The nearest stable snow leopard population is in Mongolia 250-300 kilometres away. It is also unclear where grown kittens disappear from the pride. To find this out, the scientists are planning to place collars on two snow leopards in 2013


"We must collar a male that comes during the rutting season or a young leopard who is about to leave. This time is crucial for collaring because the male will soon disappear," Istomov said. Scientists have a plan to establish a wildlife sanctuary, but it does not make sense to breed the snow leopard in the Sayano-Shushensky reserve unless they have the migration data. "Animals don't migrate strictly from one reserve to another. They may cross common-use areas or hunting strips, and this has to be monitored. Perhaps we should even escort them to some extent and tighten security in these areas during the migration period," he explained. To better study the leopards' migration paths, satellite collars will also be put on ibexes, the snow leopard's main prey.