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Four American women detained in Siberia then 'deported' from Russia

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11 May 2015


The four were detained on 1 May in the village of Mondy, Buryatia but the information was only released much later. Picture:

The US citizens were in 11 km from the Russian border with Mongolia apparently on a mission to study the endangered snow leopard in the Republic of Buryatia.

'A group of American women have been detained by a border guard detachment in the village of Mondy,' said an official source. 'It was established that the foreigners did not have special permission to be in the frontier zone.'

Their detention and deportation comes at a tense time in relations between the Russia and the US. However, no accusation of espionage was made against the women. 

The four were detained on 1 May in the village of Mondy, Buryatia but the information was only released much later. The US women pleaded ignorance of laws which forbid foreigners into certain border regions without permission, it was reported.

Pam Colorado

Beth Duncan

Darla Hillard

Betsy Mueller

From left to right: Dr Pamela Colorado, Beth Duncan, Darla Hillard, Elizabeth 'Betsy' Mueller. Pictures: Facebook, Linkedin

They wanted to study the habitat of the snow leopard. One report said that they were fined after making a 'full confession' and showing 'repentance'.

They were fined 2,000 roubles ($39) and ordered to travel to Irkutsk prior to leaving the country. 

The detained were named as Dr Pamela Colorado, a Hawaii-based Native American scientist working with the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network; Beth Duncan, who works for the same US non-profit organisation; Darla Hillard, who works with the the group Snow Leopard Conservancy; and California-based Elizabeth 'Betsy' Mueller, who also works with the snow leopard group. 

All were reported to be US citizens by officials cited by local news agencies. It is believed the group left Irkutsk on 6 May. 

Comments (6)

It is really paranoia of government to look for enemies between Snow Leopard friends. All these women are well known for the SL conservation program for many years. Darla Hillard is pioneer of SL research in Himalaya with Rodney Jackson from 1970s. Apella Colorado develops different project for the big cats protection. In 2010 both ladies already visited the same area in Buryatia and initiated the SL conservation program in the middle school of Orlik village. If president of Russia positions himself as a Snow Leopard patron, why to use a KGB power to stop defenceless women, who spend their lives for endangered cats survival? Moreover, Ministry of Natural Resources of Buryatia is currently in process to open the hunting for the Snow Leopard and Ibex in Eastern Sayan Mountains, despite of both species populations sharp decline.
Evgeniy Kashkarov, Irkutsk/Russia
22/06/2015 13:05
Kalachakra - they even did not cross the border, but were still 11 km away from the border. I guess the border zone is neither marked nor indicated in a map. And Mongolia was always considered a "friendly neighbor", thus there used to be not the level of border zone security as e.g. with China. Indeed a bit an overreaction to deport them instead of sorting out how they can get the permit as soon as possible and continue their work. William might actually not be an American ... But their are also quite weird Americans and Europeans around now, seeing secret service plots everywhere ...
Stefan, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
15/05/2015 04:11
William, it's weird to hear that from the mouth of an American. Shouldn't you be on the side of your citizens, like I would be for sure? Also, it looks like you've never roamed a little-known region. Sure the women were too light-minded, but I bet they crossed the border because there was no visible border at all, and the GPS maps are usually of little help here. I wouldn't wonder if the actual location of the border is top secret anywhere off-road, cause in my country there are a lot of things that people must know is kept top secret. Well, may be it's all just the same in the US, I don't know. Our countries are twins in the most ways, I can tell that after all these years. May be it's all about human nature and the nature of empires.
Kalachakra, Krasnoyarsk
13/05/2015 15:25
Sorry, paranoid people. They are really who they say they are. Betsy Mueller and Dara Hillard are really snow leopard conservationists (see and Apela (Pamela) Colorado and Beth Duncan really were with the group promoting snow leopard conservation through the involvement of indigenous practitioners (see
Joyce Robinson, California/USA
12/05/2015 22:52
Weird? Not so much. "Scentists"; "pleaded ignorance of laws". REALLY? Who doesn't know that little misadventures like this one are always some sort of intelligence-gathering or intelligence-creating skirmish.
William Burke, Richmond/USA
12/05/2015 12:47
This is... weird. Never thought my country is so unwelcome to the scientists, no matter which country they are from. Now all science is open and worldwide, thanks to the Internet. Concerting the official papers, I'd love to use them all as a toilet paper.
Kalachakra, Krasnoyarsk
12/05/2015 04:04

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