UNDP project supported local initiative for Snow Leopard conservation: herders sign a cooperation agreement with the biosphere reserve







UNDP/GEF Project “Biodiversity Conservation in the Russian Portion of the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion” supports conservation of rare and endangered species, including famous Snow Leopard – a symbol of the Altai-Sayan eco-region. In order to reduce the conflict between local herders and snow leopards, that threaten livestock, the UNDP/GEF project developed a new initiative with the local population.

Snow leopard kills most sheep and goats (up to 80-90% of the total number of killed animals) when it gets into roofed corrals (“koshars”), where domestic animals are kept at night. At the same time, corrals turn out to be traps for the snow leopards where they are get shot by local herders. In March 2007 a research team of the Project and Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina Biosphere Reserve assessed the habitats of the snow leopard in the southern part of the Tsagan-Shibetu mountain ridge. By various estimates, a group of 8-10 snow leopards inhabits the area. Most of occurrences of the snow leopard attacks at livestock were registered there. During the expedition a recent attack by a snow leopard, that killed 8 goats, was investigated.

From 19 to 23 October 2007 the Project team and staff of the Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina Biosphere Nature Reserve together with the local herders from Toolailyg village reinforced corrals (“koshars”) against access of the snow leopard at 20 key herder’s camps within the area of the Tsagan-Shibetu mountain ridge in Mongun-Tayginskiy district of Tuva Republic. The vent openings in the corrals as well as the windows and openings above the doors were secured with a mesh (a metal net) which blocked off access for the snow leopard. Cooperation agreements were signed between the Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina Biosphere Reserve and each camp owner on the conservation of the snow leopard in Tuva Republic. The outcomes were highly appreciated by the Administration of Mongun-Tayginskiy district, that expressed its readiness to co-operate with the Nature Reserve and the Project. It is expected that following these inexpensive but efficient activities less sheep and goats will be killed by the snow leopard, and it will reduce the risk for this endangered Red Data Book predator to be killed by herders by 5-10 times. It was for the first time that such a project has been carried out within the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion. Should its outcomes meet the expectations, a similar reinforcement of the corrals will be carried out within the Shapshal’skiy and Sengelen mountain ridges in Tuva Republic.