More Safe Spaces Created for Snow Leopards
In 2019, our Mongolia team helped local rangers, community members, and environmental officials patrol and protect Tost Nature Reserve from mining and illegal hunting. Tost, in Mongolia’s South Gobi desert, is home to a thriving, breeding snow leopard population of between 12 and 15 adult cats. Because of your support, Tost Nature Reserve is the first protected area in Mongolia designated specifically for snow leopards. In September 2019, thanks to continued grassroots advocacy, the Mongolian government cancelled an additional mining license adjacent to Tost, saving a threatened oasis and expanding the Nature Reserve borders by another 150 sq km.
Rare Cub Data Collected
In the wild, very little is known about snow leopard reproduction, birth, and survival rates. In June 2019, using data from a GPS tracking collar, our researchers were able to pinpoint the den site of a female snow leopard named Dagina in the Tost Mountains. Dagina is the longest-studied snow leopard, and the oldest snow leopard mom for which we have reproductive data. While Dagina was out on a hunt, the team quickly examined and chip-tagged her three cubs to record their health and ensure they can be identified later. This is only the 5th time that researchers have been able to record data from wild den sites. In September 2019, camera surveys showed the cubs remain strong and growing.
New Snow Leopard Populations Confirmed
We continue to contribute to an international effort called PAWS, which aims to estimate the global snow leopard population. All 12 snow leopard range countries have agreed to align their monitoring programs with PAWS. In 2019, we improved survey methods with top scientists and developed partnerships with major stakeholders. Intensive camera trap surveys representing over 20,000 sq km of snow leopard habitat led to multiple ‘firsts’– including the first photographic evidence of snow leopards in the Ala Too Mountains of Kyrgyzstan (cubs too!), and the first photographic evidence of snow leopards in the Khorkh Mountains of Mongolia. Cats were even captured on camera in Ikh Bogd National Park, Mongolia, where snow leopard presence has not been reported since the 1990s!
Big Leaps Made for Community Conservation
In 2019, we empowered over 6,000 herder households in five countries through awareness and livelihood improvement programs. You supported peaceful co-existence through programs such as conservation handicrafts, livestock insurance, livestock vaccination, and predator-proof corrals. In Mongolia and India, we provided handicraft training to over 60 new women. In Kyrgyzstan, we held five times the number of summer eco-camps. In Pakistan, we vaccinated livestock in 22 communities. Our teams also continued developing new programs, such as Snow Leopard Friendly Cashmere and an initiative to close earthen pits used to trap predators.
Solutions to Combat Poaching
Illegal trade and poaching are growing threats for snow leopards. With your support, we’re developing the first snow leopard anti-poaching database and working to improve illegal wildlife trade enforcement. In 2019, we supported ranger patrols in key snow leopard habitats and held our 5th annual ceremony to publicly recognize and award rangers for their successful anti-poaching efforts. Moving forward for 2020, we have plans in place for piloting new programs, such as rapid response teams and emergency hotlines to diffuse potential poaching incidents.
High Tech Innovations Built to Fast Track Research
Did you see snow leopards in the new Microsoft AI ad campaign? The Snow Leopard Trust and Microsoft have partnered together to employ artificial intelligence and deep learning to automatically sort through massive numbers of wild snow leopard photos. Each year we collect hundreds of thousands of photos from the field, and we need to sort through them to find and identify cats in order to estimate populations. Microsoft engineers have created a program that enables us to automate our photo processing, saving an enormous amount of time and making our estimates more reliable. Microsoft is very excited about this work and chose Snow Leopard Trust as one of only a handful of projects to feature in their new ad campaigns. Check out the ad!
None of this would have been possible without you, our wonderful donors, funders, and partners. From all of us at the Snow Leopard Trust, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support!