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Majestic images of snow leopard taken for first time in new reserve

By Olga Gertcyk
06 April 2015

Photo traps capture beauty of the big cat stalking the landscape by day and night in shadow of Altai Mountains.

The new pictures are the first evidence that the species is living within the Saylyugem National park, which was created five years ago to protect wildlife in the region. Picture: Saylyugem National park

Majestic images of one of the world's rarest big cats have been captured in a new Siberian national park for the first time.

Cameras managed to get photos and video footage of the snow leopard in its natural habitat during the day and at night in the shadow of the Altai Mountains.

The new pictures are the first evidence that the species is living within the Saylyugem National park, which was created five years ago to protect wildlife in the region.

They are particularly timely, given that 2015 has been designated the International Year of the Snow Leopard, with a special global campaign to raise awareness of the animal's plight.

Snow leopards in Sailyugem


Snow leopards in Sailyugem


Snow leopards in Sailyugem

'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.' Picture: Saylyugem National park

'Our scientific research began in February and in less than a month we got the first photos,' said Aleksei Kuzhlekov, a researcher at reserve. '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.'

Another senior researcher, Sergey Spitsyn, said the videos and images could be of three or four different leopards.

He said: '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 is any different patterns because of low quality of the photos.'

Park staff collected droppings from two of the three spots where the leopards were recorded, and will pass on the biological material to the laboratory for DNA analysis.

Igor Ivanitsky, head of conservation department, said: 'The snow leopards' movement routes are properly marked, so by changing the spots where our photo traps were placed, we eventually found the right place. You can see in the footage that the snow leopard is scratching the ground. That tells us this is the main route for them moving around the reserve.'

The snow leopard is in the endangered category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with as little as 4,000 left in the world, of which only 2,500 may reproduce.

Sailyugem


Sailyugem


Sailyugem

The Saylyugem National park stretches to a total area of 118,380 hectares and is divided into three separate areas with different protection remits.. Pictures: Saylyugem National park

The Saylyugem National park was only created in 2010 to help protect the wildlife living in the shadow of the Altai range, particularly the snow leopard and argali mountain sheep.

It stretches to a total area of 118,380 hectares and is divided into three separate areas with different protection remits.

The creation of the reserve was essential because hunters killed more than 10 snow leopards alone in the Argut river valley in the 1990s. Their hides were sold as were parts of their bodies for eastern-style medicine.

Until the park was created, rangers had no way of protecting the area from poachers. The new images could inspire animal lovers to travel to the Siberian region and see the snow leopards living in the wild.

The reserve is open for tourists to visit and explore the animals in the wild, as well as get an understanding of the unique peoples and cultures of the region, where the border of Russia meets China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

Foreign visitors are welcome, although they do have to obtain a special visa and additional visitor documents since the region is close to the State borders.

Comments (6)

Dear colleagues, congratulations on this wonderful effort to protect the snow leopard in your region. The Saylyugem National park is a treasure that will preserve your snow leopards and other wildlife and ensure continued biodiversity for your local communities for many years to come. Sibylle Noras Founder and Publisher "Saving Snow Leopards" www.snowleopardblog.com Member, Steering Committee, Snow Leopard Network www.snowleopardnetwork.org
Sibylle Noras, Australia
27/04/2015 11:52
1
0
A good example of what dedicated park staff and countries can do when they make the effort. Not an easy task but important and worthwhile. The snow leopard is one of the most magnificent animals on earth (altho it should be saved simply because it exists and is important for its eco-system, not because it is beautiful!)
W. Norman, New Mexico
20/04/2015 23:17
1
0
For protecting and taking care of the the endangered Snow Leopard, thank you to the government of Russia for creating the Saylyugem National Park. And thank you also to the park's staff. All these well meaning people are an example to world and should be commended publicly in a substantial way.
Anthony Milch, Burbank, CA, USA
12/04/2015 03:11
1
0
I really hope the snow leopard will survive to the thrill and joy of our ancestors. One of our most beautiful animals :) :) :)
guri mundal, norway
09/04/2015 21:41
2
0
Amazing - I have never seen pictures of the Snow Leopard in the wild before, thank you for taking good care of it!
Ruth Bech, Troms/Norway
09/04/2015 02:19
3
0
Love the snow leopard, it's the most beautiful big cat in the world, pls help to protect/save this illusive beast before it gone, disappear forever from this world!
Azman Mohd, Penang/Malaysia
07/04/2015 17:18
11
0
1

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