From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/tienshan)

For the past few days it’s been getting colder every night up to the point where we have to defrost our hand wash basins in the morning.

Despite the icy temperatures and days with all four seasons of the year rolled into one, research activities continue as normal. One of the first tasks for this group was to check whether the Karakol Pass was still blocked by snow. Good news: we were able to find a way around and finally made it to the eastern side. And, Pei Hao, a participant from Singapore, for the first time in his life touched real snow ! The big valley east of the pass is crowded by herders but several deep, long northern side valleys seem to be promising as survey areas.

Another day saw Martin, Liss, James , Pei Hao and Aman survey the first of these valleys. It was a long and strenuous day full of beautiful landscapes, waterfalls and sightings of badgers, marmots and several ibex. We will definitely be back for an overnighter.

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Volodya, Martin, Guenter and Gordon combed the southern valleys. To do this, an early morning icy river crossing is compulsory, but was taken sportingly and in good spirits. Before they reached the terminal moraine of one of the glaciers, they found a long, perfectly clear wolf track, some wolf scat and hundreds of amazing old petroglyphs (showing deer, camels, donkeys, birds and hunting scenes). A remarkable find! But they also found evidence of hunting.

Ulf, Ilka and Agnes in the meantime pushed the survey altitude up to far above 3700 meters.

Our overnighter team of this week was Liss, Martin, Ulan, James and Aman who visited our old “home valley” of Base Camp 1. On their way they stopped at the herder of that valley, where they were served a second breakfast. As the water level of the rivers has dropped noticeably, they managed for the first time to get a car across a ford and penetrate deep into the valley beyond. First, and supported by fantastic weather conditions, they checked the camera traps we installed two weeks ago. Fresh ibex scat all over had everybody looking forward to having a look at the camera trap pictures. And indeed several good shots were taken of ibex, badger, fox and argali. But none of the mountain ghost. On one picture it appears as if the mountain sheep is chasing away the fox!

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On the second day of their overnighter, they installed four more cameras high up on the other side of the valley. Perhaps the ghost will grace those. We live in hope. The stunning landscape, the team spirit, the weather, visiting the herder made it all together an unforgettable experience and they returned to base in high spirits. Well done everyone!

From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan 

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