“Land of the Snow Leopard” Festival

The annual “Land of the Snow Leopard Festival” in Kosh-Agach, Altai Republic is dedicated to one of the rarest predators on the planet, the snow leopard. Since its inception in 2009, this Festival has expanded into a popular youth-centered environmental movement with schoolchildren coming from as far away as Mongolia. On May 21st, the festivities began in the regional center with the opening of an international photo exhibition entitled “Living Nature of Altai,” curated by the well-known Barnaul-based photographer Aleksei Ebel.

Dancing children in Kosh-Agach

Dancing children in Kosh-Agach

Coinciding with the festivities was a science fair, “My Small Motherland”, where budding student-researchers showcased environmental conservation and traditional knowledge projects. Nogon Shandanov, a student at Kosh-Agach High School, was recognized for Best Presentation in a performance of Altaian musical culture including an impressive concert on the topshur, a traditional two-stringed instrument.

District-level competitions are held throughout the weekend, with the best performances advancing to a Republic-wide festival in Gorno-Altaisk in October. Highlights of the district-level competitions were the performances of the smallest “kittens”, or preschool children. They lit up the program with theatrical productions, singing, and performances on the topshur and morinkhur, the latter another two-stringed instrument played with a bow. Beautiful dance performances and costumes were also a feature of the festival, with the winning troupe from local Beltyr School, performing a mesmerizing crane dance.

For the first time, the chief organizer of the environmental festival was Sailyugem National Park, established in Kosh-Agach District for the preservation of rare and endangeredspecies, including the snow leopard. In his greeting to festival participants, Director Aleksandr Chaika congratulated participants not only on their successful performances but also on their joint successes with the Park in their efforts to protect the snow leopard, a symbol of the spirit of Altai’s mountains.

The “Land of the Snow Leopard Festival” took place with support from WWF-Altai-Sayan, Foundation for Sustainable Development of Altai, Kosh-Agach District Education Administration, and Ukok Quiet Zone Nature Park. The Altai Project provided additional support.