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Russia snow leopard ecotour

Altai Republic Russia.

Biosphere Expeditions runs a snow leopard ecotrek in Russia. The trek recently won a “Tours of a Lifetime” award from National Geographic Traveler magazine. This snow leopard trip was also honored in BBC Wildlife Magazine’s “Top 10 conservation holidays” list. “Saving Snow Leopards Blog” participated in this exciting research trek in July 2010. Read the Diary “Searching for Russia’s last snow leopards”.

The region for the snow leopard trip is the Altai Mountains in the Altai Republic of southern Russia,  home to the last remaining snow leopards in the country. With snow and glacier-fed wild rivers and high steppe it’s an area that is home to herders and their livestock of cows, yaks, goats and horses. Many of the herders still live in mobile yurts that can be set up and dismantled as needed as they move from pasture to pasture.

The team for each research trek meets in Novosibirsk, Russia’s third largest city and capital of Siberia. From here it still takes two days and almost 900 km to reach Base Camp.

You’ll sleep in individual sleeping tents, and there’s a dining tent and cooking tent for the cook.

Base camp is at 2200m and from here you do the survey work for the expedition that focuses on estimating snow leopard numbers and cat activity. You’ll also help assess numbers and activity for the major prey species of the snow leopards, wild argali sheep, ibex and marmots.

To understand snow leopard habitation in the area you’ll be looking for scrapes, pug marks, remains of kills and scat, anything to see if the snow leopards are still in the regions. You may also interview local herdsmen about their experience of and attitudes to snow leopards. All of this information will help formulate protection plans for snow leopards and community-based projects to help the local people.

Biosphere Expedition work has been instrumental in the declaration of a protected area in the Altai Republic, Central Asia, which provides the habitat for a number of endangered species including the snow leopard. For more information on dates for this trip check out their website.

A video of life in the Biosphere Expeditions snow leopard research camp (in German).

This video from the Altai Foundation shows the magnificent mountain region and explains the role of Russia’s wilderness reserves. The video also mentions snow leopard conservation work being done in this region.