This year, the Kazakhstan Association for Conservation of Biodiversity,

or the KACB, will make three expeditions - in June, August and October - in the Dzungarian Ala Tau to monitor snow leopards. Such expeditions help the scientists to learn about changes in the abundance of snow leopards and conditions of their habitat and threats, and to develop measures to protect the rare species.
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2017 year

What questions will be answered by the animal study

1. Have the density and abundance of the snow leopard population changed.
2. What are the changes in the habitat of snow leopards, and are there any threats in their habitat.
3. What is the composition of the fodder base and are there enough food resources to conserve the population.

New Methodology

This year, the KACB will test a new observation methodology developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, Russia). The new approach is that the habitat of the snow leopard will be divided into cells of 25 sq.km. each. The researchers will collect data in each cell - and then will use special formulas to estimate the population abundance and density more precisely.

Animal Study Tools

Photo traps
Participants of the expedition will place special photo-traps as per the new WWF methodology. Snow leopards are cautious and secretive animals. To encounter them in the wild is a great success and a rare case. That is why all-weather photo traps with a long battery life remain an indispensable tool for the researcher. 50 photo traps will be used in the work.


Observations and surveys of locals
In addition, the researchers will meet with locals to find out where and when they noticed the snow leopard or traces of its occurrence. They will inspect the area on their own in search of evidence of its occurrence, to map the routes of migration and movements of snow leopards and animals they hunt.

Expedition Journals

The expedition members will gather scientific data, and will also tell what it’s like to follow the snow leopard tracks. They will make a number of video clips for YouTube on the scene, and Journalist Maya Akisheva will cover the course of the expedition in social networks to ensure that more people learn about the problem of the conservation of snow leopards.

2016 year

Snow Leopard Study in 2016

Last year, some scientists of the Institute of Zoology made 12 expeditions in the vicinity of Almaty, in the mountainous part of the basin of the Greater Almaty River.

• Purchased 8 new photo traps.
• Arranged 30 photo traps and found 4 snow leopards in the area of the Ile-Ala Tau National Park.
• Found out that the habitat area suitable for the snow leopard reduced by 17.4%, it means that snow leopards ceased to inhabit in the area of 29.6 sq.km. of the park.
• Studied the conditions of their habitats, the state of food resources, the presence of natural enemies and competitors.
• Established some facts of poaching and transferred information to the competent organization to take protective measures.

Videos from photo traps

Report of the Kazakhstan Association for Conservation of Biodiversity (KASB) for 2016

Last year, the scientists of the Kazakhstan Association for Conservation of Biodiversity (KACB) made some field expeditions - in spring, summer and autumn - to establish the habitat and to estimate the abundance of snow leopards, and to study conditions of their habitat.

50 photo traps were used in the Dzungarian Ala Tau Natural Park and the Toktin Wildlife Reserve during three expeditions. Based on the results of “photo catches”, 12 snow leopards were photo-recorded, of those a female with one cub and a female with two cubs.

Some locals and inspectors of the park and received additional information on the habitats of snow leopards and other animals. The key habitats were determined that are the most important for the conservation of the snow leopard.

The researchers found out that there were more habitats of snow leopards in the Toktin Wildlife Reserve than in the main area of the Dzungarian Ala Tau Park. The Reserve is at a greater distance from large inhabited areas, the conditions for the normal habitat of the snow leopard have preserved better there, and its relative abundance is higher.

 

However, there is no infrastructure to protect the species in the Toktin Wildlife Reserve. In their report to the Committee for Forestry and Wildlife of the Ministry of Agriculture, the KASB indicates the need to strengthen protective measures, and to include those new areas in the national park, which are important for the conservation of the snow leopard. The Association concluded a cooperation agreement with the Dzungarian Ala Tau National Park, and worked out a joint fieldwork plan for the next three years.

Videos from photo traps

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

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.