Sex of snow leopard cubs determined at the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve

Sex of snow leopard cubs determined at the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve

23 August 2021

A female snow leopard, brought to the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve from Tajikistan, gave birth to a litter last year, and now, almost 18 months later, researchers have determined the sex of the cubs. “We can surely say that one of them is a male and the other is a female,” experts at the reserve said after studying the photos taken by camera traps. “Now that we have images showing all sides of the cubs, we can create a fuller description of each of them,” the researchers said.


“We managed to determine the female’s sex using a photo where she and her mother turned their backs to the camera,” said Roman Afanasyev, senior research fellow and head of the research department at the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve. “We identified the male using still images from a camera trap video.”


The researchers already can tell apart the snow leopards born last year by their spot patterns. Snow leopard cubs have coats with blurred markings that morph into a distinct spot pattern after their first moult at the age of 12 months. Thus, all the necessary information has been collected to create “passports,” or profiles, for the leopards.


“After beginning an independent life, the female will probably stay in the nature reserve, while the young male will go far away from his mother,” Roman Afanasyev said. Snow leopards travel with their mother until they are 1.5 years old, and these two young leopards will soon begin their independence.


Work to monitor snow leopards continues. In 2021, a project to preserve these animals got underway with support from the Russian Geographical Society and representatives of the society’s Khakassian branch.