Experts discuss the state of Russia’s snow leopard population

Experts discuss the state of Russia’s snow leopard population

16 December 2021

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment hosted a meeting of its expert group dedicated to the present state of the snow leopard population in Russia and the reintroduction of snow leopards.


The group discussed a report on its performance in 2021 and approved an action plan for next year. The experts also held a discussion on how to establish a centre for the breeding, rehabilitation and reintroduction of snow leopards at the Krasnoyarsk Park of Flora and Fauna “Roev Ruchey.” The centre will focus on restoring small groups of snow leopards by releasing centre-bred leopard offspring into the wild. In addition, it will rehabilitate injured snow leopards before they too are returned to their natural habitats.


Director of the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve Gennady Kiselyov delivered a report on the successful translocation of two snow leopards, a male and a female, which were brought from Tajikistan and released into reserve territory between 2018 and 2019. In 2020, the female gave birth to two cubs.


This year, the cubs should be weaned to start a life of their own. As for the female, she is highly likely to be ready for reproduction. As of today, there are six snow leopards at the Sayano-Shushensky Biosphere Reserve. But further restorative work is needed for the group to continue to proliferate,” Kiselyov said.


The Republic of Altai, where the Sailyugemsky National Park is located, was considered a suitable territory for trapping snow leopards that would later be used by the breeding, rehabilitation and reintroduction centre. But the republic’s representatives told the meeting that the snow leopard numbers in the region were unstable and low at the moment, something that ruled out the possibility of trapping. 


World Wildlife Fund experts confirmed that the snow leopard numbers were declining in Russia, including at the Sailyugemsky National Park. They said that the 2002 snow leopard preservation strategy, which estimated the number of these animals to be anywhere between 150 and 200, was based on contingent valuation methods and other techniques that differ from what is in use today. According to the experts, 70-90 animals is the optimal number for Russia and there is no need to restore the small groups.


The World Wildlife Fund and the Russian Academy of Sciences made an estimate of the number of snow leopards in 2002 and are counting them today. The Academy of Sciences experts believe that there has not been sufficient exploration of the issue of creating the centre in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and that it makes no sense to launch a major project related to improving the state of the snow leopard group at the Sayano-Shushensky Reserve alone, while other suitable territories have yet to be identified.


The participants in the two-hour meeting discussed the possibility of using zoo litters in the restoration project and the need to amend the species conservation strategy to include a section on reintroduction.