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201327Dec22:06

Two snow leop­ard cubs — sign of hope for a species on the brink of extinction

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pub­lished 27 Decem­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 03 Novem­ber 2014
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Images of two snow leop­ard cubs frol­ick­ing in the remote moun­tains of Siberia is evi­dence that the once dec­i­mated pop­u­la­tion is bounc­ing back.

Snow leopard cubs AltaiThe pho­tos from cam­era traps partly financed by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) were cap­tured in the Argut River Val­ley in east­ern Rus­sia. This area is esti­mated to have been home to nearly 40 indi­vid­u­als at its peak two decades ago. Dur­ing the 1990s this pop­u­la­tion of snow leop­ards was almost entirely destroyed by poachers.

In 2011 WWF-​Russia in col­lab­o­ra­tion with a num­ber of other organ­i­sa­tions includ­ing the Altai Project and Snow Leop­ard Con­ser­vancy, launched a project on snow leop­ard research and restora­tion in the Argut River Val­ley. This project involved a crack­down on poach­ing that included sev­eral anti-​poaching raids in pre­vi­ously unpa­trolled areas, retriev­ing ille­gal weapons and destroy­ing snares.

These pho­tos are the evi­dence of the effec­tive­ness of our work in Altai, the snow leop­ards are breeding
Sergei Spit­syn, expe­di­tion mem­ber, Altaiskiy State Nature Reserve »

Sev­eral expe­di­tions organ­ised this year by the project proved that at least five to eight snow leop­ards cur­rently inhabit Argut, the pho­tos were obtained on the most recent expe­di­tion, which was organ­ised by Arkhar, a local con­ser­va­tion NGO.

The two snow leop­ards Argut and Batyr are believed to be less than one year old and are sig­nif­i­cant as they indi­cate that the pop­u­la­tion of snow leop­ards in the Argut Val­ley can be restored.

An ex-​poacher retrieved the images from the cam­era traps. He now works in col­lab­o­ra­tion with WWF and other organ­i­sa­tions to con­serve snow leop­ards by check­ing and main­tain­ing cam­era traps and search­ing the area for snares.

There are up to 6,000 snow leop­ards (Pan­thera uncia) in the wild across 12 coun­tries, but its num­bers are grad­u­ally declin­ing, with hunt­ing and habi­tat loss among the con­trib­u­tors to its endan­gered sta­tus. Stretch­ing across Rus­sia, Mon­go­lia, Kaza­khstan and China, the Altai-​Sayan ecore­gion is one of the last remain­ing untouched areas on earth and is iden­ti­fied by WWF as a key global ecore­gion. Being a flag­ship species in this ecore­gion, snow leop­ard con­ser­va­tion is a key tar­get for WWF in this pro­tected area.


(Source: WWF-​global news, 26.12.2013)


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