It has been a quiet but busy summer here at The Altai Project. I am excited to share some updates with you about what we’ve been doing!
This summer, our bird experts became increasingly concerned with falling numbers of Eastern imperial eagle during their field expeditions in western Altai. We also launched a new initiative to begin supplementing natural reproduction of Saker falcons by placing captive-bred young nestlings on existing nests with this year’s crop of baby falcons near the Mongolian and Tuvan borders of Altai. So far so good. The young birds flew the nest with GPS data-loggers between their shoulders and are embarking on their winter migration to southern climes. We will be following them closely.
The first snow fell in Altai this past weekend. The harvest is in, and our partners are moving on to fall and winter surveying activities for argali sheep and snow leopards. Earlier this summer, researchers obtained camera-trap photos of a mother with three adolescent kittens at her side traversing a hillside and strengthened their knowledge of 25+ individual cats in Altai Republic!
We have also begun supporting community-led efforts to stop destructive placer gold-mining and illegal logging of Siberian pine north and west of Lake Teletskoye. There, villagers are aided by experienced activists work to ensure full transparency and public engagement in plans for future gold mines and much improved oversight and assessment of existing mining activities. Indigenous Altaian minorities and other local residents are also concerned with illegal and unsustainable harvests of Siberian pine, known in Russian as kedr, and prized by humans and wildlife for its pine nuts and commercially valuable timber.
Two brand new solar arrays were commissioned in September in Altai! This now makes 3 commercial solar arrays and another community-level array for a total of almost 30 mW of energy production, installed with European and Russian subsidies but implemented locally by our long-term colleague Andrei Yalbakov and his Solar Energy Corporation. Congratulations to them all for choosing sustainable, renewable energy in Altai!
Politics between Russia and the United States, as well as ongoing civil society repression inside of Russia have led The Altai Project to take a lower profile in its outreach.
We will continue quietly providing much-needed financial, informational, and technical support to our partners in Altai until the political situation improves.