The snow leopard population in Argut has been declining over the years. It is thought that the area can sustain more than 20 leopards, but in the 80s and 90s, poaching almost completely extirpated the big cat. When conservation efforts began in 2010, there were perhaps only 3-6 cats. Thanks almost entirely to Senior Researcher at Altaisky State Nature Reserve Sergei Spitsyn’s efforts to stop poaching and assess the population, we estimate the population has grown to 5-8 cats – a tremendous improvement. The Altai Project has honed in on this issue by working alongside Sergei Spitsyn, local herders, and hunter communities to protect these elusive cats.
In 2013-2014, with the help of the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, we were able to make significant progress. Sergei worked with park rangers to train them on surveying techniques, as well as rehabilitating four poachers to become snow leopard protectors. Sergei was proud to see his proteges’ success identifying new snow leopards and even capturing images of kittens this past winter.
UPDATE! We are thrilled to announce that the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has renewed their support of The Altai Project in 2014-1015, allowing Sergei to continue his critically important work around snow leopard research and community engagement. This year we will support more general community outreach and education, as well as a snow leopard festival way out in Argut Village.