First photograph of a rare snow leopard in Altai Republic, Russia [2013]

No one has captured a snow leopard on camera in Russia’s Altai Republic – until now.

Snow leopard steps behind rock as it travels uphill

Snow leopard steps behind rock as it travels uphill

On July 9, The Altai Project’s expedition leader Jennifer Castner, guiding a party of intrepid Wild Altai Expedition adventurers near the Russia-Mongolia border, photographed the snow leopard. “We had been trekking along a narrow mountain valley for several hours,” said Castner, “and I heard Mimi Kessler say, “Look, it’s a snow leopard!’ We all gasped when we saw it, and then I started taking pictures.”

Castner was leading seven conservation-minded explorers on a ten-day trek to document signs of snow leopards, Siberian ibex, argali sheep, and rare bird species. “The pressure from poaching and habitat fragmentation is so great that there are only 80 or 90 snow leopards in Russia, so we thought we’d be lucky to even find marking sites and a few camera-trap images. But we watched the leopard walk calmly up the ridge about 15 seconds. This is a triumph for The Altai Project and its partners and our joint efforts to protect this precious species.”

The Altai Project has been protecting nature and strengthening communities in Altai for 15 years. On the ground in Russia, Wild Altai Expeditions are led by experienced local scientists at Altaisky State Nature Reserve and WWF-Altai-Sayan with decades of conservation and community development experience.

See more trip pictures here.

Learn more about traveling to Altai.