Snow Leopard research and conservation

Snow Leopard facts

Population estimate up to: 3800 mature individuals
Distribution
: 12 countries ranging from Uzbekistan (westernmost) to Mongolia (easternmost)
Habitat preference: rugged mountains
Elevation: 500-5800
Generation length: 7.5 years
Weight: 27-54 kg
Project implementation country: Mongolia

THE THREATS

The snow leopard in Mongolia has to face a number of threats, mainly related to the conflict with humans. The passage from a centralized economy to a market economy after 1990 caused a huge increase of livestock (from 20 million in 1990 to over 70 million in 2020) in Mongolia. As a consequence, the overlap between the snow leopard territories and the ones occupied by livestock has increased, thus the risk of livestock depredation has risen. These circumstances could affect negatively the herders’ attitude towards the snow leopard, escalating in retaliatory killing. The increased number of livestock can also have negative effects on the main snow leopard large prey, the Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica), which has to compete for food sources and habitat use.

Mitigating People-Predator Conflict in the Mongolian Altai
The project

Institutes implementing: Wildlife Initiative, Snow Leopard Conservancy, Irbis Mongolia

WHAT WE DO

In 2017, a study was undertaken by Claudio Augugliaro to assess the conflict between herders and predators like snow leopards and wolves in the Bayan-Ölgii Province (Mongolia). More than half of the livestock losses recorded during the studies were the result of non-predatory causes like disease and harsh winter.

Despite snow leopards was also found to be responsible for livestock loss, the majority of losses were attributed to wolves.

“Patterns in human-snow leopard and co-predator interactions in the Mongolian western Altai: current issues and perspectives”

So, the general attitude of the local people toward these predators was assessed in this study, since the retaliatory killing is among the major threats for snow leopard (in the photo a dead snow leopard in a leg-hold trap).

From 2018 to 2020, thanks to a project led by the Snow Leopard Conservancy, solar-powered flashing lights called Foxlights were installed across Bayan Olgii province. After dark, the multi-colored lights flash on and off, resembling a herder patrolling with a flashlight, which keeps predators away. The early data was encouraging, showing that where they were used there were no further attacks by snow leopards or wolves. It provided a benefit to herders and their livestock but also to important apex predators like snow leopards and wolves.

Wildlife Initiative in partnership with the Snow Leopard Conservancy, and Irbis Mongolia, is planning a project (starting in October 2021) aimed to preserve the snow leopard population in Sutai mountain and the ecological corridors connecting the surrounding snow leopard metapopulations.

We will equip all the herders living between snow leopard ecological corridor with both Foxlights and camera-traps. Heders will be trained to recognize and search for snow leopard co-predators and wild preys signs of presence. Moreover, they will be taught to check camera images and batteries, along with device functionality. Observers will record and note species, type of sign identified and date.

WHERE YOUR DONATION GOES

Your donation is necessary to cover the field costs, and the workshop we will organize every year in the local village Tsegtsegnuur, aimed to increase local community awareness of snow leopard.

Snow Leopard Population Assessment and Interaction with Co-Predators and Prey
The Project

Institutes implementing: Wildlife Initiative, University of Florence, Mongolian Academy of Science
Supporting Partners: Panthera, Parco Natura Viva

WHAT WE DO

Effective wildlife management and conservation requires knowledge on the population size. Only a few populations have been estimated in Mongolia using rigorous scientific methods. Using camera traps, with our partners institutions, we aim to estimate the populations of the western Gobi desert, and the Mongolian trans-Altai, since we have already assessed some population in the Mongolian western Altai. Furthermore, we are investigating how livestock affects the spatiotemporal occurrence of the snow leopard, co-predators and prey across Mongolia, to find proper mitigation measures for the human-snow leopard conflict in the country.

WHERE YOUR DONATION GOES

Our mid-long term project is addressed to cover a 6 years sampling on 6 snow leopard populations in the western Gobi (within the Great Gobi A) and the Mongolian trans-Altai. We need to buy new camera traps and replace the damaged or stolen ones across the years (around 15% per year on a total of 100 cameras). Since the Snow leopard lives in very remote areas, the costs to reach these places and the ones related to field work, including local guides salaries, are high. Your contribution will enable us to continue our work, necessary to define conservation actions.

During the new millennium, the number of livestock has increased from 20 million to 70 million, which has consequently decreased the snow leopard’s trophic resources and exacerbated herders-carnivores conflicts!