“Land of the Snow Leopard” describes a tourist travel route with waypoints in the Argut River valley and along the Sailyugem Ridge in Altai Republic, Mongun-Taiga Mountain and Tsagan-Shibetu Ridge in Tyva Republic, and snow leopard and argali habitat in Mongolian Altai. There are opportunities for wildlife viewing, diverse recreation, car camping, and cultural activities throughout and visitors can use a modular approach to planning their visit, choosing only what interests them.
With proper planning and a sustainable approach to implementation, ecotourism development can be a great benefit to the local population. Locals engaged in tourism and other conservation activities will quickly learn the value of protecting snow leopard and other wildlife in the region. Argali and snow leopards are the keystone of this project, and they are linked to every aspect of the project, including souvenirs, visitation sites, and route selection.
During the planning stages in 2006-2011, local groups led by the Foundation for Sustainable Development of Altai (FSDA) and WWF-Altai-Sayan laid the foundation for rolling out the full project beginning in late 2011. This work included:
- basic science research to assess all snow leopard habitat in the target area,
- community-based trainings for local residents in hospitality, souvenir production, and expeditions, and
- development and marketing of the transboundary “Land of the Snow Leopard” ecotourism route in Altai, Tyva, and western Mongolia, including camps and recreational and educational sites and snow leopard museums created and supported by local residents.
The Altai Project is participating in a number of ways, including fundraising support, funding for visitation site infrastructure, translation, and marketing. Other partners include SUNY-ESF, Snow Leopard Conservancy, Altai Assistance Project, and Panthera Fund (see our Partners page). The Foundation for Sustainable Development of Altai, Arkhar NGO, and WWF-Altai-Sayan are the main project implementers in Altai, and UNDP/GEF provided extensive technical support and funding during the preparation stages. Local and regional travel businesses and the Altai government are marketing the route and its amenities across Russia and internationally.