Snow Leopard Trust scientists recently recovered their first research camera photos of Kyrgyzstan’s wild snow leopards. The pictures are the result of a test study they carried out last fall. Now, they’re ready to scale up and launch the largest ever research camera survey on snow leopards in the Central Asian republic.
Here are some of our first wild snow leopard photos from Kyrgyzstan:
The goal of the planned survey is come up with a robust estimate of the snow leopards population within specific landscapes in Kyrgyzstan, and to identify key areas for their protection. While there have been a few smaller, isolated camera studies in Kyrgyzstan before, this in an unprecedented effort in terms of scale. Thanks to the generosity of many partners and individual snow leopard supporters, we have managed to raise funds for a total of 40 research cameras; the absolute minimum for a robust study.
Last fall, our team in Kyrgyzstan used the first 10 cameras they received to lay the groundwork for the upcoming survey. Led by Kyrgyzstan Program Director Kuban Jumabai Uulu, the team ran a first series of tests, deploying the 10 cameras in the main valley of the Sarychat-Ertash Nature reserve, testing out settings such as exposure and sensitivity; and ideal camera locations, such as ledges.
“Our main goal was to learn how to best use the cameras”, Kuban says, “not necessarily to get great photos”. But when Kuban and his colleagues retrieved the cameras after a couple of weeks, they were in for a pleasant surprise: Seven of the ten cameras had captured snow leopard photos; most of them crisp and clear and some simply stunning!
Now, with all the necessary tests carried out, Kuban and his team are just waiting for some of the snow to melt, so they can get started with their big camera study – which should yield even more amazing photos!