#GivingTuesday: A Unique Chance to Protect Snow Leopards

Jennifer Castner, Russia Program Director
Date: November 27, 2017
Camera traps allow us to identify individual snow leopards like Khorgai and to gather the data that helps protect them.

Meet Khorgai—one of just 70 snow leopards left in Russia. A skilled hunter, he uses his long, broad tail to move with balance and stealth across rocky mountaintops. His dense gray and white fur keeps him warm and camouflaged.

Khorgai roams the harsh Chikhacheva Ridge which straddles Russia’s Altai and Tuva Republics and the northwest corner of Mongolia. The biggest threat he faces is human activity: illegal poaching and snares, mining, and other human disturbances.

Snow leopards are a keystone species in the high-altitude landscape they inhabit. Their extinction would threaten the balance of their ecosystem, which means it’s time to act and act fast to save them! Will you donate generously this #GivingTuesday to protect snow leopards like Khorgai?

Pacific Environment supports local work in the Altai Republic to monitor the snow leopard population, to educate and retrain poachers as paid field surveyors and “protectors,” and to inspire community engagement.

Snow leopards hold spiritual significance for the indigenous Altaian people in the region, where these mountain cats connect the heavens to the land and people. Protecting the snow leopard has a resounding impact because it preserves the landscape and the health and livelihoods of local indigenous peoples.

The Altai Mountains extend 1,200 miles in a southeast-northwest direction from the Gobi Desert to the West Siberian Plain, through China, Mongolia, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

The good news is that conservation efforts are working. Snow leopards in Altai are starting to reclaim territory and successfully reproduce. But the fight to save snow leopards from extinction is not over yet. We need your support to continue their recovery.

Pacific Environment supports fieldwork that collects camera trap data and snow leopard scat. DNA from excrement can identify each snow leopard and give information about its diet and health.

This mysterious cat is so hard to spot and lives in such an unwelcoming environment, that it’s often called the “ghost of the mountains.” But each snow leopard has unique markings, which means if we spot one, we can identify it.

Camera traps must be tended by hand which often involves dangerous, hard work climbing steep slopes in winter weather conditions.

This year’s support will deploy an additional 15 camera traps—motion-activated photo and video equipment—in an understudied part of the cat’s northernmost range that researchers use to determine if conservation efforts are working. Will you help us monitor the camera trapping program at the northern edge of the snow leopard’s global range?

Here is how this work helps protect snow leopards:

1)   Identified snow leopards are recorded in Russia’s population inventory, informing global conservation efforts and tracking population dynamics

2)   New enforcement measures are taken to protect regions confirmed as snow leopard habitat

3)   Photos and videos are used for education and outreach

Your contribution, large or small, makes an extraordinary difference. Please support our snow leopard work this #GivingTuesday and make a donation to Pacific Environment.