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

Interim science report (groups 1 and 2) from our expedition scientist Dr. Volodya Tytar.

Dr. Volodya Tytar

To date all sectors (A, B, C, D and E) of the planned study area have been visited. Maps of these areas are available at https://app.box.com/s/aars70mqox56bd6dmzbwa9wn2yhxb2wk).

In total 72 cells have been surveyed by both teams (groups 1 and 2) and in 34 cells (47%) snow leopard prey (Siberian ibex, marmots, Himalayan snowcock) was recorded once or more times. The most frequent records are of marmot, particularly at lower altitudes. Together there have been 12 observations of live ibex on ridges, alongside with numerous records of tracks and droppings in places reached on foot.

Two or perhaps three signs of snow leopard presence were found. One scat sample (cell T17), one doubtful track (AF20) and one fairly distinct pugmark in mud (recorded in cell AF21).

For the first time live observations of ibex in Kyrgyzstan were accomplished (thanks to Sven Pelka from slot 2, Germany) using a drone.

Ground surveys (particularly in slot 2 when snow fields encountered in slot 1 were melting away) revealed ibex presence in areas of predicted good habitat (from surveys in previous years and the models developed from there, see expedition reports in www.biosphere-expeditions.org/reports) suitability for the animals. These, in particular, are upper reaches of valleys (together with the adjacent ridges) of Chon-Chikan (cells AC15 and AD16), Kara-Tor (AH14, AI15) and Dunguruma (AL14). These results will significantly help to improve the model used for guiding and planning our research in the area.

In all places where ibex activity was recorded, camera traps were set. To date there are 14 such traps in the field. It will be the task of groups 3 and 4 to check and retrieve them by the end of the expedition.

To date the expedition has also recorded 42 bird species (or two-thirds of the list of 2016). Amongst them are such Red Data Book species as the bearded vulture, golden eagle, black stork, which are protected in Kyrgyzstan.

Team members also continue to interview locals for the purpose of ascertaining attitudes towards snow leopards and snow leopard conservation. Nine such interviews have been accomplished so far. In general, they confirm positive attitudes and understanding of the need to protect snow leopards.

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