Snow leopard cubs have gone to a new diet

A snow leopard. Photo: Sayano-Shushensky Reserve
A snow leopard. Photo: Sayano-Shushensky Reserve

The results of the new expedition of Sayano-Shushensky Reserve showed that snow leopard kittens born in May-June 2014, are more often seen on the pictures taken with camera traps. 

From 2008 to 2013 7-8 snow leopards were living in Sayano-Shushenskoye Reserve. In the mating season 1-2 males were coming to this territory from the border areas, and then went back. In 2014 experts identified three adult males, one female and three 5-months kittens. 

According to the lead researcher of the reserve, Candidate of Biological Science Victor Lukarevsky, the kittens became more active. The female keeps moving around with the kittens in the safest time of day - early morning or late evening. However every 2-3 days it takes the cubs to hunt, teaches them tricks of how to get food and survive. 


The young mother with cubs. The picture was taken with camera traps in Sayano-Shushensky Reserve
The young mother with cubs. The picture was taken with camera traps in Sayano-Shushensky Reserve

"The behavior of the animals has changed because the kittens are over their milk diet and the mother gets them accustomed to game, showing them different types of it," - says Lukarevsky. 

One question still bothers the scientists: who is the father of the cubs? This can be Mongolian  - a dominant male, or a young snow leopard named Ichthyander, who is famous for his swims. Collected biological samples will help find out who is the happy father.

Despite conservation measures taken to protect the group and cat’s caution, the young mother and the cubs are threatened by poachers. Violators put illegal trap loops on musk deer, but snow leopards can also get trapped with them. 

"Even one such loop can be fatal for the family - says Lukarevsky. - And while there is a demand for musk gland of the musk deer in the world, the snow leopard continues to be under the danger of extinction" 

Snow leopard is under the danger of extinction. According to experts, there are 3.5 to 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 wild cat 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 for the study and conservation of this rare cat since 2010.