Cameras for snow leopard count installed on Ukok Plateau

Cameras for snow leopard count installed on Ukok Plateau

18 August 2017

Researchers from Sailyugem National Park and Zona Pokoya Ukok Nature Park have completed their expedition to the Ukok Plateau to study the snow leopard. During the expedition, the scientists walked more than 500 kilometres and installed eight camera traps. It is the first time that motion-sensor cameras have been installed along the Russian-Kazakh and Russian-Mongolian borders.


The remote and understudied plateau is located at the junction of four countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. The latest information on the rare felines’ habitat in this area was obtained in 2006. The expedition has found other scratch marks indicating places the snow leopard inhabits, mainly near the borders.


“Ukok is a blank spot on the snow leopard habitat map: the number of animals is unknown, as is their distribution in the area. Unfortunately, the population of hoofed animals here is low, especially ibex, which is the snow leopard’s main prey. There are places where there are no hoofed animals at all: no traces and no travel routes, which is a bad sign. If the snow leopard really inhabits the Ukok Plateau, cameras will capture images of the cat, but we are talking about very few, which, of course, are still very important,” said Denis Malikov, deputy director for science, research and monitoring at Sailyugem National Park.


Scientists hope to obtain the first images of the snow leopard on the Ukok Plateau in September. When new images and videos are retrieved, specialists will make profiles for each animal, including tracking information (scratch marks, paw prints) and DNA analysis of hair and dropping samples. The data will be added to the Snow Leopard online database created in 2015. This database contains all the information on known snow leopards in Russia.