AboutZoos, Since 2008


First ever cam­era trap pho­tos of snow leop­ards in Uzbekistan’s Gis­sar Nature Reserve

pub­lished 16 Jan­u­ary 2014 | mod­i­fied 25 Decem­ber 2014

Newly obtained cam­era trap images have pro­vided the very first pho­to­graphic evi­dence of snow leop­ards in the cen­tral Asian coun­try of Uzbekistan.

snow leopardIn Novem­ber and Decem­ber of 2013, a team of rangers and biol­o­gists led by Bakhtiyor Aro­mov and Yeliza­veta Pro­tas, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with global wild cat con­ser­va­tion organ­i­sa­tion, Pan­thera, and WWF Cen­tral Asia Pro­gram, con­ducted a snow leop­ard cam­era trap study in the Kizilsu area of Gis­sar Nature Reserve, on the bor­der of Uzbek­istan and Tajik­istan. Images taken through the study have con­firmed the pres­ence of at least two indi­vid­ual snow leop­ards in the region, along with other large preda­tors – lynx and bear – and an abun­dance of prey ani­mals, includ­ing ibex, wild boar, and hare.

Today, the snow leop­ard (Pan­thera uncia) is clas­si­fied as Endan­gered by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species, with as few as 3,5007,000 indi­vid­u­als remain­ing in 12 coun­tries across Asia. For years, snow leop­ards have been reported in this area. For instance, the 19941995 esti­mate of snow leop­ard in the nature reserve [by a team of researchers led by Elena Kreuzberg] was 1317 indi­vid­u­als, and the num­ber of snow leop­ard and its main prey species was observed to be increas­ing at the time accord­ing that report. How­ever, until now, their pres­ence has only been con­firmed through tra­di­tional sur­veys and very rare visual encounters.

Panthera’s Snow Leop­ard Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Dr. Tom McCarthy, stated:

It is very excit­ing to doc­u­ment snow leop­ards within the Gis­sar Nature Reserve in Uzbek­istan using cam­era trap tech­nol­ogy. Pan­thera has pro­vided over 300 cam­era traps through part­ner­ships such as this to bet­ter doc­u­ment the range of this elu­sive and endan­gered cat of cen­tral Asia’s moun­tains. With an improved under­stand­ing of their range and num­bers we have a bet­ter chance to save them.

Sit­u­ated on the west­ern edge of the Pamir moun­tain range, the Gis­sar Nature Reserve serves as the largest pro­tected area in Uzbek­istan, strictly guarded by bor­der patrols and reserve rangers, with vis­i­tors allowed only for sci­en­tific research. The reserve pro­tects sev­eral species of rare and endan­gered ani­mals, includ­ing the snow leop­ard, lynx, Himalayan brown bear and otter, which are listed in the Red Book of Uzbek­istan and the Inter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Nature’s Red List of Threat­ened Species. (See images on Pan­thera web­site)

For­merly part of the great Silk Road and Soviet Union, the reserve has more recently been home to armed con­flicts result­ing from the dis­so­lu­tion of the USSR and for­ma­tion of newly inde­pen­dent states in the 1990s. For­tu­nately, this strife resulted in even stricter pro­tec­tion for the reserve.

Alexandr Grig­o­ryants, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the State Bio­con­trol Agency of the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan, com­mented, “The State Bio­con­trol Agency of the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan is par­tic­u­larly focused on the pro­tec­tion and increas­ing the num­bers of rare and endan­gered fauna in Uzbek­istan. Thanks to the hard work of the reserve employ­ees, and with the active help of state pro­tec­tion offi­cers and inter­na­tional con­ser­va­tion organ­i­sa­tions, such as WWF, UNDP, Pan­thera and oth­ers, the pop­u­la­tion num­bers of endan­gered ani­mals in Uzbek­istan will increase.”

The con­firmed pres­ence of snow leop­ards in Uzbek­istan, in the west­ern­most part of the species’ range, and the avail­abil­ity of prey as con­firmed through this study’s cam­era trap images, pro­vides hope for the sur­vival of this endan­gered wild cat in Uzbek­istan and through­out its range.

(Source: Pan­thera press release, 16.01.2014)

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