Passports for snow leopards

Passports for snow leopards

11 July 2013

Russia's snow leopard population is recorded using various methods, including GPS and GLONASS satellite collars, molecular-genetic profiling and monitoring of the population of hoofed animals, on whom snow leopards mostly prey. In addition, snow leopard tracks are detected, and trail cameras help track their movements.


These trail cameras are among the most widespread and reliable methods for recording the snow leopard population. These cameras make it possible to take a series of images or videos, which are subsequently used to identify the animals.


"We keep passports on snow leopards inhabiting the Sayano-Shushensky Reserve, and we analyse images being taken by trail cameras in order to conduct detailed studies of the snow leopard population," said Sergei Istomov, a senior academic fellow with the Sayano-Shushensky State Natural Biosphere Reserve. "We keep records on every snow leopard detected by a trail camera, including unique spot patterns on the dorsal surface of the animal's tail, sides and forehead. Just like the unique human fingerprint, each snow leopard's spot patterns remain the same during its entire life," Istomov added.


Each passport contains the following snow leopard data:


Individual identification code of each animal;


Supposed or verified characteristics of each animal;


History of observations making it possible to obtain detailed characteristics of each animal through accumulated data.


This passport data allows scientists to record the permanent snow leopard population in the nature reserve, to detect snow leopards who arrive there during the mating season, and to look after maturing kittens on the territory of the reserve.