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Snow Leopard. Photo WWF.Welcome to resources and news on how local communities and conservationists are saving the endangered snow leopard and protecting its Central Asian mountain habitat.

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First ever seen snow leopard in new National park in Russia. Photo by Saylyugem National Park

Researchers recently announced that snow leopards have been found in the Saylyugem National park, which was created five years ago to protect wildlife in the Altai mountains of Siberia.

The photos were taken by remote camera traps and are the very first to show that the snow leopard is calling this national park home.

This is particularly heartening news at a time when Russia’s snow leopards appear to be in decline due to poaching and habitat loss.

‘Our scientific research began in February and in less than a month we got the first photos,’ said Aleksei Kuzhlekov, a local researcher. ‘The snow leopard was spotted four times, at different times. It is difficult to say though how many were caught by cameras, whether it was one or two.’

Saylyugem National park pic

The Saylyugem National Park was created five years ago to protect endangered wildlife. It was not known that snow leopard inhabited the area. Photo by Saylyugem NP.

Another senior researcher, Sergey Spitsyn, said the videos and images could be of three or four different leopards. ‘Two of them were in footage and they have different patterns on their tails. The others were captured on the photo cameras, but it’s hard to tell if there are any different patterns because of low quality of the photos.’

The National park was created five years ago to protect wildlife such as the argali  mountain sheep and the area now totals 118,380 hectares. It was not known that snow leopards were in the area but now that argali are protected they will attrack snow leopards for whom they are a major prey source. The protection of the National Park was seen as important to protect both argali and snow leopards. Unfortunately  poachers had killed more than 10 snow leopards in the area during the 1990s and their furs and body parts would have been sold on the black market for Chinese medicine.

saylyugem National park2

The remote beauty of one of Russia’s most recent national parks which has now been found to have snow leopards. Photo Saylyugem National Park.

The head of the local conservation department, Igor Ivanitsky, adds: “We were able to place the cameras in the right place by painstakingly working out the movements routes of the cats.

“Being then so successful with our camera trapping efforts tells us that the park is their main home and hunting ground.

“Park staff have also found snow leopard tracks and scats (droppings) in several places around the national park, giving further evidence that the big cats are thriving in their newly created refuge.”

The park’s researcher, Alexei Kuzhlekov, said, “The research project was launched in February 2015. We used standard methods for studying snow leopards. After completing our research, we installed camera traps along presumed snow leopard migration routes. It took us less than a month to photograph the first snow leopards. We took four photos of a snow leopard at different times. So far, it’s hard to say whether we have taken photos of one or two snow leopards.”

inside mountains white and blue

Saylyugem National Park has conditions faboured by snow leopards. The cats may thrive now that the national park offers them protection from poachers who have killed at least 10 snow leopards in the last 20 years. Photo Saylyugem National Park.

Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director of Biosphere Expeditions, which assisted in the creation of the new National Park says he is delighted with the news.

“We spent ten years working in the Altai, researching snow leopard presence, building local capacity and trying to create economic incentives for local people to keep their snow leopard neighbours alive.

“When we started, there was no national park, little awareness, research or infrastructure, and rampant poaching.

Now the park’s researchers, scientists and colleagues from the Altai Reserve will work on visual comparisons of the snow leopards in the photos with those listed in the their database to establish the exact number of cats and identify individuals. We wish them all the best for their work with this snow leopard group and may the snow leopard population here be safe and grow.

The 15th snow leopard collared through the Panthera-SLT study in Mongolia. October 2012 Photo Panthera / SLT K. Suryawanshi.

The 15th snow leopard collared through the Panthera-SLT study in Mongolia. October 2012 Photo Panthera / SLT K. Suryawanshi.

The Snow Leopard Trust has great news this week with the announcement that they have captured and collared their 20th wild snow leopard in Mongolia’s Tost Mountains, the area of their 10 year long term study.

This ground breaking study, which began in 2008,  is collecting the most detailed information on the life, habitats and movements of wild snow leopards ever conducted.

The latest cat, a male, has been fitted with a GPS collar, which will now allow researchers to follow the animal and gather vital information over the coming months. “The cat weighed 44.3 kg [just under 100 lbs.] and we think he is 4-5 years old”, field scientist Örjan Johansson reported.

This information will enable the Trust and others to develop long term strategies to help more snow leopards survive in the wild.

You can read more about this amazing study on the Trust’s website where they will also be posting photos of this male.

GSLEPP logoThe Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Progam is an alliance of the 12 snow leopard range countries recently launched in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic with the support of snow leopard NGO’s.

Good news today the GSLEP Facebook page tells its supporters that they are also investigating the photo of an alleged poached snow leopard with a Russian business man posted on social media earlier this week.

The GSLEP released this statement. “The State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, in connection with the release on the internet of a photograph of a man against the background of a killed Snow Leopard, an animal listed in the Red Book of the Kyrgyz Republic, has addressed to the national centre of Interpol in the Kyrgyz Republic a formal letter requesting assistance in taking appropriate action.”

See earlier story and photo here.

 

 

Here is an update on the story of the poached snow leopard that was shown on social media a few days ago.

The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources published this press release about the dead snow leopard incident on their website today. (The original Russian is below. The English is a Google translation from the Facebook page of Sailyugem National Park

WANTED now!

Ministry of Russia has asked law enforcement agencies to check the possible involvement of Russian businessman Paul Cho to the illegal hunting of Snow Leopard and to start international investigation of this crime.
Ministry of natural resources and environment of RUSSIAN FEDERATION sent to the General Prosecutor’s Office of RUSSIAN FEDERATION that appears on the Internet a photo where the Hunter is pictured next to the immobilized snow leopards with traces of blood on the carcass and legs. Photo of the chapter Ministry of Russia Sergey Donskoy sent through your profile on Facebook one of its subscribers.
In line with the request of Sergey Donskoy, Deputy Minister of natural resources and environment of RUSSIAN FEDERATION, Rinat Gizatulin, sent to the General Prosecutor’s Office of RUSSIAN FEDERATION available photographic material.
Rinat Gizatulin the cover letter requested under Russian legislation, measures to verify the identity of a snapshot as well as the possible existence of poaching, the personality of the offender, the photographer, the other persons who might be implicated in the illegal hunting of the animal makes. He noted that the Russian network users have identified the man pictured in the photo, co-owner of capital group Paul Cho, and the area is reminiscent of the mountain areas of Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan, where the predator.


According to information from public sources, Paul Cho is also a co-owner of the private hunting in Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, no official data confirming this information, yet.
Rinat Gizatulin also appealed to the Russian branch of Interpol to initiate investigation of fixed camera mežudanrodnoe the fact of killing the animal, as well as the possible involvement of citizens of the Russian Federation to the “flagrant violation of the norms of international law and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Ministry of Russia authorized organ of the all-Russia RESEARCH INSTITUTE-Institute for nature conservation to analyze photographic materials with a view to establishing the necessary investigators data on the age, sex, weight of the animal depicted on the image.

The Office calculated that the competent authorities of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will conduct complex investigations to establish all the circumstances of the killing.
Snow Leopard or snow leopard is a major predator of the cat family living in Central Asia. In the Republic of Altai Snow Leopard lives in Katunskog, South of Chui Chikhachev Ridge and ridges. On the territory of the National Park “Sajlûgemskij” is believed to be about 10-15 species of this unique species.
The current strength of the snow leopards disastrously low, in the 20th century it was included in the Red data book of the International Union for conservation of nature, in the Red Book of the Russian Federation, referring to category I-type, which is under threat of extinction, as well as in Annex I of the Convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and Flora (CITES). This means a special permit to move any kind of cross-border derivatives and total ban on movement in commercial purposes.

РАЗЫСКИВАЕТСЯ!!!

Минприроды России обратилось в правоохранительные органы с требованием проверить возможную причастность российского бизнесмена Павла Тё к незаконной охоте на снежного барса и добиться начала международного расследования этого преступления.
Министерство природных ресурсов и экологии РФ направило в Генеральную прокуратуру РФ появившуюся в сети Интернет фотографию, на которой запечатлен охотник рядом с обездвиженным снежным барсом со следами крови на туше и лапах. Фотографию главе Минприроды России Сергею Донскому направил через профиль в социальной сети «Фейсбук» один из его подписчиков.
В соответствие с поручением Сергея Донского, заместитель Министра природных ресурсов и экологии РФ Ринат Гизатулин направил в Генеральную прокуратуру РФ имеющиеся фотоматериалы.
В сопроводительном письме Ринат Гизатулин попросил провести предусмотренные российским законодательством мероприятия для подтверждения подлинности снимка, а также установления возможного факта браконьерства, личности исполнителя преступления, фотографа, других лиц, которые могли быть причастны к организации незаконной охоты на краснокнижного животного. Он отметил, что российские пользователи сети идентифицировали в человеке, изображенном на фотографии, совладельца компании «Капитал Груп» Павла Тё, а местность напоминает горные районы Таджикистана или Киргизии, где водится этот уникальный хищник.
По информации из публичных источников, Павел Тё также является совладельцем частного охотничьего хозяйства в Киргизии. В то же время, никаких официальных данных, подтверждающих указанную информацию, пока нет.
Ринат Гизатулин также обратился в российское представительство Интерпола с просьбой инициировать межуданродное расследование зафиксированного фотокамерой факта убийства животного, а также возможную причастность граждан Российской Федерации к этому «вопиющему нарушению норм международного природоохранного законодательства» и добиться привлечения виновных к уголовной ответственности.
Минприроды России поручило подведомственному институту – Всероссийскому НИИ охраны природы провести анализ фотоматериалов с целью установления необходимых следователям данных о возрасте, поле, весе животного, изображенного на снимке. В ведомстве расчитывают, что компетентные органы Таджикистана и Киргизии проведут комплекс оперативно-розыскных мероприятий для установления всех обстоятельств данного убийства.
Снежный барс или ирбис – крупный хищник из семейства кошачьих, обитающий в Центральной Азии. В Республике Алтай снежный барс обитает на территории Катунског, Южно-Чуйского хребтов и на хребте Чихачева. На территории национального парка «Сайлюгемский» предположительно обитает около 10-15 особей этого уникального хищника.
В настоящее время численность ирбисов катастрофически мала, в XX веке он был внесён в Красную книгу Международного союза охраны природы, в Красную книгу РФ, виду присвоена Категория I – вид, находящийся под угрозой исчезновения, а также в Приложение I Конвенции о международной торговле видами дикой фауны и флоры, находящимися под угрозой исчезновения. Это означает особый разрешительный порядок перемещения любых дериватов вида через границы и полный запрет перемещения в комерческих целях.

 

Photo of a poached snow leopard reputedly with Russian businessman Pavel Te circulating social media. The snow leopard expert community is trying to find out the truth behind this cat's death. The family of the man conserned say the image was photoshopped.

Photo of a poached snow leopard reputedly with Russian businessman Pavel Te circulating social media. The snow leopard expert community is trying to find out the truth behind this cat’s death. The family of the man conserned say the image was photoshopped.

This sad, awful photo is circulating social media now. Concerned people in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia started circulating it a few days ago and everywhere people are very upset about it. It is good to see the amount of condemnation coming through as more and more of us realise it is not acceptable under any circumstances to kill snow leopards and other endangered wildlife.

The snow leopard expert community and NGO’s are trying to find out the truth behind the photo which the man’s family say is photoshopped. But this is still a poached snow leopard and we want to know the truth behind its death. Killing snow leopards is illegal in all 12 range countries. Unfortunately despite laws and regulations hunters are sometimes  not made accountable.

One thing this photo does show is that there are stll some people amongst us who consider hunting and killing an endangered wild cat to be a fun sport. The message to this small minority of folks is – killing animals like this is not sport. It is  inhumane, arrogant and illegal. Your time is running out, and with the power of social media the world is watching you.

A snow leopard caught on camera trap in Altai

A snow leopard walks the mountains of Altai. The cats are now helped by local conservationist Mergen Markov. (Photo Altai Project.)

One of the most heartening things for all of us in wildlife conservation is to hear this story. A young man spends years as a poacher, catching animals to secure his family’s income but now turns his skills to helping these same endangered animals.

The Altai Project is a conservation group saving snow leopards in the magnificent Altai Mountains in southern Siberia. Now they have such a snow leopard protector, Mergen Markov, who was recently honoured with a Disney Conservation Hero Award from Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). This award recognises citizens for their efforts to save wildlife, protect habitats and educate their local communities.

This is Mergen’s story.

An indigenous Altaian livestock herder and hunter, Mergen was initially approached by Altaisky State Nature Reserve’s senior scientist, Sergei Spitsyn. Coming from a long line of hunters, the risk of leaving poaching was great for Mergen, who relied on the illicit income for his family’s livelihood.

Remote Altai Mountains in Russia. Photo by Sibylle Noras

Remote Altai Mountains home to snow leopards. (Photo by Sibylle Noras.)

Sergei explained the incentive program to Mergen, and he cautiously agreed to be its first participant. Putting aside his snare-traps for camera-traps and hoping to secure images of new snow leopards, it was not long before he had captured incredible images of two snow leopard kittens. Nearly a year later, he is now a valued member of the patrol team and a true conservation hero! When he isn’t in the field, he’s talking to other herders and hunters about the importance of protecting wildlife and the dangers of poaching.

All these stories show one thing. If local people are able to support their families by protecting wildlife they are all willing to do it. When programs like the Altai project offer alternative livelihoods people are able to become stewards and protectors. We congratulate Mergen and our Altai Project colleagues for this wonderful work. We hope you can help by supporting their snow leopard conservation by donating here.

Global Snow Leopard Program meeting

Pakistan Minister for Climate Change Mr. Mushahid Ullah Khan at right. (Photo GSLEP Secretariat.)

Congratulations to the Hon. Minister for Climate Change from Pakistan Mr. Mushahid Ullah Khan, who has been elected chairman of international steering committee of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Program at the Bishkek meeting in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Addressing the meeting, the minister assured the participants that Pakistan would join global efforts for protection and conservation of the endangered snow leopard, whose population has declined rapidly in the country because of illegal hunting.

He also reiterated the will of the present Pakistani government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and said that Pakistan is seriously committed to the global efforts for protection and conservation of endangered snow leopard.

Global Snow leopard program steering committeeThe snow leopard expert community believes the key to saving the iconic cat in its fragile habitat lies in community education so it was encouraging to hear the minister say that a big part of the GSLEP strategy will be focused on educating rural mountain and herder communities about the need to protect snow leopards, engaging them in conservation efforts, and helping them have sustainable livelihoods.

Full story in Pakistan Today.

Global Snow Leopard ForumThis week on March 19th and 20th, Ministers and senior officials of 12 snow leopard range countries will come together for the first Steering Committee meeting of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystems Protection Program (GSLEP) in Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic. They will continue the work begun in October 2013 when all 12 countries signed the Bishkek Declaration to protect their snow leopards.

Women in Noorus costumes in Kyrgyz republic. (Photo BBC.)

Women in Noorus costumes in Kyrgyz republic. (Photo BBC.)

The GSLEP Program is a world first, a joint initiative of all the governments of the range countries, many international organisations, civil society and the private sector. Together the aim is the long-term survival of the snow leopard in its natural ecosystem.

Members include the Climate Change Minister of Pakistan, Mushahidullah Khan, who told his country’s media yesterday, “Glacial area in Pakistan’s north is spread over 16933 square kilometre, which provides remarkable habitat for the endangered snow leopard but these habitats are vanishing due to rapidly melting glaciers as average temperatures in the northern parts soar.”

“Snow leopards are at risk also from poaching,” he said, and asked people living in range countries to help their governments to stop illegal hunting.

Mr Mushahidullah Khan also said he hoped joint efforts to be pledged by countries at the GSEP meeting in Bishkek would help protect snow leopards from becoming extinct and preserve the critical biodiversity found in their mountain habitats.

Key partners in this initiative include – The State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, along with the GSLEP Secretariat , the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), Union for Conservation of Nature and Biodiversity (NABU), Snow Leopard Trust (SLT), Snow Leopard Conservancy, Snow Leopard Network, NABU, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), World Bank (WB) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

On the 21st of March delegates will join the Noorus (Central Asia NewYear) celebrations where there will be ceremonies associated with “New Beginnings”. In some homes owners have a lovely tradition of burning juniper leaves to let the smoke drive away bad spirits

There’ll also be the taking of sumalaq, a special ritual meal, only made now and like New Year everywhere, people will be visiting friends and relatives.

Happy New Year to all our friends and colleagues in Central Asia and good luck with saving the snow leopard in all your countries.

Snow Leopards in China

This is how we want to see snow leopards, wild and free. Two snow leopards captured on a remote camera trap in China. (c) Shanshui and Snow Leopard Trust.

Today we celebrate International Wildlife Day with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message “Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sections of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products, which are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories.”

Sadly snow leopards are still killed and traded for their fur and other body parts despite all range countries having laws against this.

Snow leopards have been listed in Appendix 1 of CITES since 1975, but 40 years later illegal trade in snow leopards still poses a serious  threat to the long term future of the cats according to the recently released “Snow Leopard Survival Strategy 2014“, published by the Snow Leopard Network.

China, which has the largest snow leopard population of all countries still has a huge illegal wildlife trade. We acknolwedge that the government of China has recently taken big steps to address this. In 2013 they seized over 200 kg of ivory products in Beijing’s markets and mounted a targeted campaign across the country

But much more needs to be done. Regular and continuous monitoring of markets in snow leopard range countries as well as monitoring of online websites is critical.

On International Wildlife Day let us all use today to consider how we might make a difference, by educating ourselves on illegal wildlife products we might see in our own countries or while travelling abroad, so we don’t become a part of the problem by purchasing them.

 

How snow leopards have adapted to cold high altitudes. (C) Sibylle NorasWe are now in the coldest part of winter in the Himalayan and Central Asian mountains snow leopards call home.

Let’s remind ourselves how these cats have adapted to the extreme cold (minus 25 degrees Centigrade  or 13 degrees Fahrenheit) and to the extreme high altitudes (3500 to 5500 metres or 11,500 feet to 18,000 feet).