Snow leopard monitoring in the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve in 2019

Snow leopard monitoring in the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve in 2019

12 December 2019

The Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve staff summed up the monitoring observations of the snow leopard population.


In 2019, as part of the federal programme to restore this species’ population, two snow leopards brought from the Republic of Tajikistan were released into the reserve. The results of regular observations during the year showed that the new leopards are successfully getting used to the protected area, staking out territory, independently hunting for food and interacting with each other.


Previously, in 2016-2017, one snow leopard – a male called Ichthyander – was spotted in the reserve. In 2018, the federal programme to restore the snow leopard population in the northern part of its Russian range got underway. In 2019, grant support from the Russian Geographical Society made it possible to carry out activities under the programme.


Thus, two snow leopards from Tajikistan were released into the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve. The male was released at the end of December 2018, and the female was set free in March 2019. After the release, scientists monitored the animals using tracking collars and a network of motion-sensor cameras located within suitable habitats for the species.


According to the 2019 monitoring results, scientists determined that the released snow leopards successfully adapted to the conditions of the reserve, independently hunt for food and actively mark their territory in the protected area.


The experts noted that the male and female had proven their ability to hunt large animals on their own since the very first day of their release. However, the male did not stay near his victim for more than two days, eating less than half the carcass, while the female usually ate almost all the prey within a few days.


As scientists collected data from the tracking collars, they were able to map the territories and routes of the snow leopards. These observations showed that the male from Tajikistan uses the same paths as the native Ichthyander. Over the course of four months in the reserve, the new leopard has explored more than half of the area typical for this species within the protected area. The female is examining the area much more slowly, making short diurnal transitions.


Ichthyander senses the presence of the new snow leopards in the area: images from camera traps show him examining the marking sites of the newcomers. In addition, after the release of the snow leopards from the enclosure, Ichthyander began to spend more time in its vicinity.


The reserve’s specialists noted the ongoing competition for territory between the males: the animals actively mark the area where the female lives and chase each other, which has been recorded by camera traps several hours apart.


Now Ichthyander shares his territory with the female in the central part of the snow leopard group’s range, ousting the male from Tajikistan to the southern section.