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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.

Keen to help save endangered snow leopards?  Get involved here.

interpol-and-environmental-crimes-1-728Recently INTERPOL, along with the Snow Leopard Trust, the Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyz government agencies, made an exciting announcement about their partnership on a snow leopard protection initiative in that country.

INTERPOL is the International Criminal Police Organisation, an intergovernmental organisation facilitating international police cooperation. One of INTERPOL’s objectives is to fight environmental crime, that is, illegal acts which harm the environment. INTERPOL aims to share information and illegal trade intelligence and increase cross border collaboration through their Wildlife Crime Working Group.

SL pelt Photo WWF UAE

Illegal snow leopard pelt. Photo WWF-UAE.

Unfortunately snow leopard poaching and smuggling of body parts is still happening throughout most range countries. All such poaching and smuggling activity is illegal but demand for snow leopard products still exists. In the past demand for body parts came from the medicine industry but now conservationists say demand is “fuelled by wealth, not health” by which they mean wealthy citizens wanting skins as ready-made rugs and taxidermy specimens, as status symbols. Rising affluence and increasing disposable incomes in consumer countries is now the major driver of snow leopard poaching. Studies in last few years have shown that snow leopard parts are traded in the wealthy coastal cities of China.

While the program just launched doesn’t cover China we hope it will help Kyrgyzstan’s snow leopards and the snow leopards of its neighbouring countries. Known as Citizen-Ranger Wildlife Protection Program (CRWPP), it will train, publicly honour, and financially reward park rangers and local community members who successfully apprehend illegal hunters.

Two poachers with snow leopard pelts arrested in Nepal in  2011. Photo Kathmandu Post

Two poachers with snow leopard pelts arrested in Nepal in 2011. Photo Kathmandu Post

The Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) has been working in Kyrgyzstan since 2002 focusing on community-based conservation, and more recently, with the Kyrgyz President for catalysing range-wide governmental action for snow leopard conservation. The SLT’s program in Kyrgyzstan, Snow Leopard Enterprises, has helped with the problem of hunting of snow leopards and wild sheep and goats by local community members. However, for many years, community members and rangers have expressed frustration at preventing poaching by outsiders.
“Our existing community-based conservation programs are not as effective against this outside threat,” says Brad Rutherford, Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust.

INTERPOL’s role will be to train rangers on investigative skills and standard enforcement techniques over a period of three years as part of their Project Predator. This project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Project Predator has been actively participating in international snow leopard conservation efforts for several years, including the drafting of the Law Enforcement Component in the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), 2013.

First photos of SLT program in Kyrgyzstan Pic SLT

One of the first photos of wild snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan from the Snow Leopard Trust’s remote camera’s helping with their conservation programs. Photo Snow Leopard Trust.

We congratulate the Snow Leopard Trust and partners in Kyrgyzstan on setting up this program which will help the endangered snow leopard population in their mountains.

We also hope that this type of training and INTERPOL’s involvement can be replicated in other snow leopard countries, including China, where demand for body parts appears to be high.

However much also needs to be done in non snow leopard range countries as the largest markets for illegal wildlife products are believed to be, in order, China, then the European Union and the USA. (IFAW Report 2013).

It sounds logical. An increase in wild prey (that is food) leads to an increase in snow leopards. When the cats have enough to eat they will thrive. A report from Panthera’s Tanya Rosen on snow leopard conservation activities in More on the snow leopards of Tajikistan, shows how this simple fact is evident in the small Central Asia Country.

Rare video of Snow Leopard in Alichur, Tajikistan from Tanya Rosen Michel on Vimeo.

Tanya writes – “Burgut is one of the conservancies supported by Panthera in Tajikistan. It is located in the Alichur range, in the eastern Pamirs. Mahan Atabaev, the leader of the conservancy and rangers have to date successfully led the recovery of argali sheep, a key snow leopard prey, in this area. In 2012 when the conservancy was established we counted 106 argali, In December 2014 we counted 251 of them. As the numbers of argali are rising so are those of snow leopards.

In 2014 we identified at least 3 different snow leopards. Meanwhile we have also predator-proofed 6 corrals in this area (thanks to the support from the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative) to eliminate farmer-snow leopard conflicts. While many challenges remain, anti-poaching and conflict-mitigation efforts are beginning to pay off.”

See more from Panthera, a US based NGO working to save the big cats in the wild.

This photo of the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Nepal shows the devastation. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha).

This photo of the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Nepal shows the devastation. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha).

Our thoughts are with the people of Nepal at this sad time of the devastating earthquake.

So much destruction in both the capital Kathmandu and in the outer regions and villages mean suffering and loss will continue for the whole country for a long time.

Stories of loss of life and destruction of property are also emerging from the areas of snow leopard habitat like Jomsom in Lower Mustang.

Many young people from the area of Jomson will have been affected by the devastating recent earthquake in Nepal. Here a group of Snow Leopard Scouts taking part in training in Jomson before the earthquake. (Photo Snow Leopard Conservancy.) We hope readers and supporters of this Blog can help with donations over the coming months as the resilient people of Nepal struggle to rebuild their lives and country.

Many young people from the area of Jomson will have been affected by the devastating recent earthquake in Nepal. Here a group of Snow Leopard Scouts taking part in training in Jomson before the earthquake. (Photo Snow Leopard Conservancy.)
We hope readers and supporters of this Blog can help with donations over the coming months as the resilient people of Nepal struggle to rebuild their lives and country.

Our friend and colleague Dr Som Ale from the Snow Leopard Conservancy reports that some schools which take part in the Snow Leopard Scouts Program have been destroyed and  “the livelihood will continue being impacted because stored grains, cereals, crops are destroyed and livestock killed. ”

To our dear readers and supporters of “Saving Snow Leopards” blog, we encourage those who are able to make donations for the recovery of this nation. Every small donation helps and donating over a period of time, even months is important where destruction and loss of life is so extensive.

A heartfelt Thank-you to you all.





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


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.


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.