Staff of the Sayano-Shushensky Reserve got first images of the three snow leopard kittens born this year. Shots made with camera traps have confirmed scientists’ assumptions about the offspring of the group of snow leopards.
The scientists assumed that the female living in the reserve was pregnant in February-March, 2014. She participated in the rut, and in May one could see her rounded flanks on the pictures taken with camera traps. In June she disappeared and was out of sight for two months, which indicated that she had cubs.
The snow leopard is endangered. According to experts, there are 3.5-7.5 thousand snow leopards in the world, and their number is steadily declining. While in Russia, their population is less than 150 individuals. Because of the inaccessibility of its habitat, naturally low abundance and its reserved character the snow leopard is the least studied kind of wild cats in the world. In our country, the snow leopard lives in Southern Siberia, it is the northernmost territory of its habitat.
The Russian Geographical Society has been supporting the project to study and preserve this rare cat since 2010.
Earlier in 2014, the registration of the animals showed that there were three adult males and one female on the specially protected natural area. After the birth of the three kittens the population of the snow leopard in the Sayano-Shushensky reserve reached 7 individuals.
The reserve staff supposes that the number of 7-8 individuals (3-4 adults and 2-3 young) is optimal for this species in the reserve. In 2008-2013, 7-8 snow leopards were living at the Sayano-Shushensky reserve. During the mating period, 1-2 males came to the reserve from the border areas and then went back. Since 2008, in addition to the dominant female, young cats born in the territory of the reserve has been taking part in the rut. However, the birth of their kittens have never been reported, and later the females left the reserve. Experts believe that the families of snow leopards headed by a dominant female inhabit the territory. Teens leave the place of birth and go presumably to the south, in the direction of Tuva.