In 2010 I visited the beautiful remote mountains of the Altai, a region of which I was painfully ignorant. During two weeks of trekking through the landscape looking for snow leopard sign I came to realise how special and fragile this place is.
This week the Kosh-Agach Cultural Museum, in the deep south of the Altai Republic (Siberia, Russia) opened with a snow leopard display of photos and information about the rare cats which still live in very small numbers in the most remote parts of this region.
The new cultural centre in the small town helps to educate the local people, other Russian visitors and foreign tourists about the rich natural history of the Altai with its magnificent wide steppes, taiga thickets and the splendour of massive snowy peaks.
Many of the local people here are herders who have become aware of their role in preservation of the wildlife including animals like snow leopards, foxes, wild goats and sheep, ground squirrels as well as thousands of varieties of birds. The local school kids have recently started celebrating snow leopards with an annual snow leopard day.
All of these activities are supported by the Snow Leopard Conservancy, Foundation for the Sustainable Development of the Altai (FSDA), United Nations Development Programme Global Environment Facility (UNDP/GEF), the Centre for Additional Education of Schoolchildren of the Altai, and the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network.
“It was really wonderful last week to open the new cultural center with staff of the Ukok Nature Park. Children came directly from summer camp held in the mountains near Kosh-Agach; they gave a small concert and read their poems, “ said Chagat Almashev, Director, FSDA, Altai Republic who started The Altai Assistance Project (AAP) in 2003.