Krasnoyarsk Territory hosts meeting on snow leopard protection

Krasnoyarsk Territory hosts meeting on snow leopard protection

3 June 2019

An event dedicated to stepping up the protection of protected areas of federal significance in the snow leopard range was held on 27 to 31 May in the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve with the support of the Russian Geographical Society. This is where the Caucasus Nature Centre won with the project Recovering Russia’s Wild Cats (the Persian leopard and the snow leopard) in 2018. Work is underway to develop a programme to restore the snow leopard population within its native range in Russia, under the federal project Biodiversity Conservation and Ecotourism Development of the Environment national project.


One of the key tasks of the Caucasus Nature Centre is to develop together with experts a scientifically based mechanism for restoring and protecting the snow leopard habitats. To do so, experts must develop a set of measures to improve the protection of protected areas of federal significance and implement other activities aimed at restoring the snow leopard population within their borders. This work is carried out by the Caucasus Nature Centre in cooperation with the Altai-Sayan region and the administrations of protected areas where important snow leopard habitats are located.


During the plenary session, specialists presented an up-to-date assessment of the status of Russian snow leopard groups, and also spoke about the problems of preserving the species. In his report, Gennady Kiselyov, director of the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve, cited the statistics on violations recorded in the protected area from 2015 to 2019 and spoke about the existing protection system in the reserve, as well as the difficulties rangers encounter during raids.


Kiselyov also showed photographs of poaching victims, among which were snow leopards. Since 2008, camera traps have periodically spotted snow leopards with various injuries. In 2013, a female snow leopard injured by poachers was caught on camera. The photo clearly shows signs of injury from a snare, from which the animal managed to get out. However, the female died from her injuries. During the reserve’s observation period, camera traps sighted this female with offspring three times; in total she had eight cubs. A little later, a camera trap captured images of another female with a wounded paw, which soon after disappeared from sight. There are pictures confirming that males were also injured by snares. Thus, by 2019, only one snow leopard, a male named Ikhtiandr, is regularly photographed in the reserve.


The Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve faces the threat of poaching from residents of the village of Verkhneusinskoye on the eastern border and from the southern border, which is also the border of two regions - the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Tyva Republic. Rangers have repeatedly confirmed, following raids, that poachers get into the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve through the Khan-Deer area of the Ubsunur Hollow Nature Reserve.


During the discussion, the participants reviewed a number of possible primary measures necessary to enhance the protection of protected areas of federal significance in the snow leopard range, and also discussed an integrated approach to implementing a draft programme to restore the snow leopard population within its native range in Russia. Gennady Kiselyov spoke about the work already done to boost snow leopard numbers in the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve. Two snow leopards, a female and a male, brought from the Republic of Tajikistan, have been released into the reserve, and their whereabouts are monitored using tracking collars.


Following the meeting, the participants took a trip to the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve, where they learned in practice about the protection of protected areas, visited the ranger stations located along the Sayano-Shushensky reservoir, saw an open-air enclosure to accommodate snow leopards before releasing them into the wild, assessed the infrastructure and walked to a camera trap site, where an employee of the reserve’s research department showed recently obtained pictures of snow leopards.


The field part of the meeting also included a conversation with the reserve’s response group, which completed a mounted raid along the southern part of the protected area that covered a total distance of about 450 km.


Following the meeting, the participants determined the main set of measures to restore and protect the snow leopard habitats, as well as promising areas for recreating natural snow leopard groups through reintroduction and translocation.


Measures to preserve the snow leopard are necessary due to the decline in snow leopards living in their native range in the country. The snow leopard is listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation and has the status of an endangered species. It is also classified as a vulnerable species on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).