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Approximately so many snow leopards have survived in Kazakhstan.

In 2016, a project of the Kazakhstan Institute of Zoology for the many-sided research and studies of the snow leopard ecology in the Zailiyskiy Alatau will be launched with a view to make recommendations on their preservation.

2015 year

The Association for Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan carried out a large-scale work with the assistance of Carlsberg Kazakhstan to research the snow leopard population in the Dzungarian Ala Tau in 2015.

1. 50 photo traps were acquired to study the snow leopard and also those animals, which constituted its prey item base and competitors.

2. Three field expeditions were carried out (in the spring, summer and autumn of 2015), during which some data was collected by using photo traps and questioning local people.

3. Such data as gathered over 2015 were summarized and analyzed.

4. Recommendations were drawn up for the CFW on for the preservation of the snow leopard in the Dzungarian Ala Tau SNNP.

Videos from photo traps

2016 year

The Institute of Zoology at the Committee of Science of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan is pursuing a comprehensive study of the snow leopard to minimize the human anthropogenic impact on the snow leopard habitat in the vicinity of Almaty.
The study will largely depend on special-purpose equipment, and the more equipment will be available in the arsenal of scientists, the higher will be the data quality and integrity.

You can familiarize yourselves with a full study program here.

BUSHNELL TROPHY Photo Traps

Snow leopards are known for their ability for camouflage and stealth. Very few people have seen a snow leopard alfresco, so, photo-traps are the main tool for researchers to determine the behavior and habitat of the predators. The said photo traps are all-weather ones and can operate autonomously for a very long time. The 14MPs. camera is capable of making high-quality photos and Full-HD videos in any lighting conditions.

Memory cards and batteries

Photo-traps will require a lot of batteries for a trouble-free operation, and also memory cards, which will be often replaced to obtain the most recent data.

Stage I research results of the Institute of Zoology

During the first half of 2016, as a result of scientific research, it was the first time to carry out a multi-sided research of the snow leopard ecology in the basin of the Large Almatinka. Using a few of photo-traps, the researchers succeeded in the establishment of the presence of snow leopards in some places. The main prey items of the snow leopard (Siberian mountain goat, maral, Siberian roe deer, wild boar, gray marmot, and snow cock) were caught by the photo trap objective. A detailed report can be found here in.

The objectives of the next project stage are as follows:

At the second stage of the project, two expeditions will be arranged - in November of 2016 and March of 2017. One should:
- gather data on the seasonal localization of the snow leopard and the state of the fodder base;
- install photo traps to collect material about the absolute population level of the snow leopard (November of 2016);
- To identify some features of the seasonal and territorial propagation of the specimen;
- To gather data on the state of habitats and assess the extent of their reduction, threats to and conditions of the snow leopard existence;
- To inspect and re-install photo traps (March of 2016);
- To carry out statistical processing, to analyze the research results, and to prepare an annual report and recommendations.

The expected results are as follows:

- To assess the current state of the snow leopard population in the area under the study and also with photo traps (population level, territorial and habitat propagation); - To identify factors that adversely can affect the snow leopard population in the area under the study;
- To assess the extent of reduction in the snow leopard habitats, threats to and conditions of the specimen existence;
- To draw up recommendations on preservation of the snow leopard in the area so studied.

About the snow leopard

The ounce or the snow leopard (in Latin Uncia uncia, according to the other classification - Panthera uncia) - a large predatory mammal of the cat family inhabiting in the mountain ranges of Central Asia. The ounce is distinguished by a thin, long and flexible body, and relatively short paws, a small head and a very long tail. Being 200-230 cm long including a tail, it weighs up to 55 kg. The color of its fur is light, smoky-gray with annular and continuous dark spots.
Due to the inaccessibility of the habitat and low specimen density, many aspects of its biology have been still poorly researched. Currently, the ounce population level is catastrophically low - in 2003, the specimen population was 4 to 7 thousand of species according to various estimates. In the XX century, it was red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and by Russia, and was included in the protection documents of other countries as well. As of 2015, the hunting for ounces is prohibited.

Symbol of nomads

The word “ounce” was adopted by Russian merchants-furriers adopted from Turkic hunters as far back as in the XVII century. In Tuva, the beast was called irbish, in the Semirechye it was called Ilbers, to the east of Alma-Ata in the regions bordering China - irviz, and it is called irves in the Mongolian language and irbiz in the Turkic language. The word also took roots in Russian, only the last letter changed from “з” to “с” in the course of time.

Population status

Due to the inaccessibility of habitats and the secretive lifestyle of the ounce, the available estimates of the specimen population level are based only on expert opinions and are approximate. At the same time, it should be noted that due to persistent harassment by people, its population level is continuously decreasing. The illegal but financially attractive poaching - hunting for the fur of the ounce has largely reduced its population. On the one hand, due to the reduction in pastures and livestock, the number of the main prey of the ounce has increased - mountain goats; on the other hand, the deterioration of the well-being of locals led to the active use of hunting grounds, the mastering of methods for poaching the animals including the catching of snow leopards with loops. At the same time, the poaching of snow leopardы has increased since the beginning of the XXI century due to the increased demand and high prices for their skins. A noticeable damage to the snow leopard population was also caused by the control of rock rabbits and marmot control as agricultural pests earlier carried out in the Tibetan Plateau where pesticides were applied. That led to the fact that it became harder for snow leopards to find an easy prey such as rodents. As of 2003, the total individuals in the wildlife is estimated between 4080 and 6590 ones. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the total specimen population size within the whole range is estimated between 3500 to 7500 individuals. Another 2000 individuals or so are being kept in zoos worldwide and they propagate successfully in captivity. The population density varies widely in different parts of the range, from 10 to less than 0.5 individuals per 100 km². For example, in Russia on the whole, it is 0.7 individuals per 100 km², in the Altai region it varies from 0.2 to 2.4 individuals, in Nepal - 5-7 individuals, and in Mongolia - 3-4 individuals per 100 km².

Protection

At present, the snow leopard population is catastrophically low. The illegal but financially attractive hunting for snow leopard fur has significantly reduced the snow leopard population. In all countries where its range is located, the snow leopard is protected by the state but the poaching still threatens it. The snow leopard is a rare, numerically insignificant endangered species. It is red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (2000) as “endangered” (the highest Protection Category EN C2A). In the Red Book of Mongolia (1997), the specimen was assigned the status of “very rare” and in the Red Book
of the Russian Federation (2001) – “endangered species at the limit of the range” (Category I). In addition, the snow leopard is entered in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It should, however, be noted that all the said environmental acts and documents create only a legal framework that is implemented poorly at the local level as evidenced by an increase in the level of the poaching and smuggling. At the same time, there are no programs aimed at the long-term preservation of the snow leopard.