The study of snow leopards in 2018

The study of snow leopards in 2018

25 December 2018

In 2018, researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution continued to study snow leopards in eastern Russia and the cross-border regions of Mongolia.


The researchers used trail cameras and analysed biological samples to prove that snow leopards live on the Bolshoi Sayan Ridge and in the Tunka Range, as well as in the Mönkh Saridag Mountains. They reported that between seven and nine adult leopards and three females in the reproduction period reside there. The results of molecular and genetic analysis of leopard droppings collected in the area in 2014-2016 have confirmed the presence of eight snow leopards there.


Computer simulation methods were used to make a map of the leopards’ potential habitat in the eastern part of the area. The population of the Siberian ibex is declining there, and so the snow leopards have to hunt other prey. The researchers believe that the eastern Sayan population of the Siberian ibex has shrunk to a level that requires emergency conservation measures, including putting the ibex in Russia’s Red Data Book.


Other field expeditions were held in the mountains surrounding Lake Khovsgol and the Darkhad Valley in Mongolia. The researchers found reliable proof of the presence of snow leopards there, installed trail cameras and made plans for the further study of the region. They believe that snow leopards can be traced in other parts of the mountains surrounding the Darkhad Valley.


The snow leopard population is decreasing throughout the Altai-Sayan ecoregion, including in the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve, where only one adult snow leopard named Ichthyander has been reported living in 2016-2018.


The data collected in 2018 show that Ichthyander has not left the reserve but is gradually expanding his territory northwards. During winter counts, the researchers found the leopard’s paw prints and scrape marks 40 kilometres from the area’s northern boundary.


The study of information from trail cameras has shown that the majority of snow leopards are spotted during the rutting season in February and March. The animals’ activity is very low in December and January, when only one snow leopard was photographed due to severe weather. In June, October and November, snow leopards are often caught on camera as the Siberian ibex migrate up the mountain slopes.

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