The snow leopard, an iconic symbol of the mountains, is one of the rarest and least-studied creatures on Earth. These elusive predators inhabit the mountain ecosystems of the Altai, Zhetysu Alatau, Saur, and Tien Shan and face numerous threats such as the expansion of economic activities, climate change, and habitat competition. While the population in Kazakhstan has doubled over the past 30 years, these challenges continue to endanger their existence.
Snow leopards live in only 12 countries worldwide and are listed in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and in the Red Books of the countries where they can be found. The global count is approximately 6,000 species, with Kazakhstan being home to an estimated 141-183 individuals.
To address the conservation challenges, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Kazakh Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, with financial support from the Global Environment Facility, launched a project in 2018 to study and preserve the snow leopard in Kazakhstan. In addition, the Snow Leopard Foundation and other organizations are actively engaged in conservation efforts to protect these majestic creatures and preserve biodiversity.
Innovative tracking methods have been implemented by Kazakh zoologists to monitor the movements of snow leopards in real time using satellite telemetry. These efforts have provided valuable insights into their behavior, migration patterns, and habitats.
The use of advanced tracking technology has led to positive population trends in Kazakhstan, with around 141-183 individuals in the country, 120 of whom reside in specially protected national parks and reserves. The Institute of Zoology has also established a cryobank to store the genetic material of snow leopards, further enhancing conservation efforts.
Overall, the collaborative efforts of government agencies, international organizations, and local foundations are working towards ensuring the well-being and survival of snow leopards in Kazakhstan. These efforts not only aim to protect a single species but to maintain biodiversity and balanced ecosystems, which are crucial for sustainable development.