In a victory for snow leopard conservation, the government of Mongolia has officially created a new nature reserve. Mongolia’s Parliament declared the Tost Mountains a State Protected Area earlier this month on April 14th.
Tost is the site of the world’s most comprehensive long-term snow leopard research study. Led by the Snow Leopard Trust, this project tracked 20 snow leopards using GPS collars, providing unprecedented insight into their behavior and ecology. Camera trap data from the past five years shows that the population in the Tost Mountains is stable and reproducing. Snow leopard cubs were also monitored in their dens, which had not previously been documented. SCI Foundation partnered with the Snow Leopard Trust on this study in 2014.
“This is a huge step forward for the protection of the endangered snow leopard in this part of its range”, says Charu Mishra, Snow Leopard Trust’s Science & Conservation Director. “This Nature Reserve will be a bridge between two existing Protected Areas, the Great Gobi and the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. The resulting landscape will be one of the world’s largest continuous protected snow leopard habitats.”
Under Mongolian law, the area will be protected from mining and other industries. Only traditional livestock grazing will be allowed. The local pastoral community has been involved with conservation efforts on the ground since the project began in 2008.
Snow leopards are one of the most endangered big cats in the world. The species is threatened by habitat loss, prey reduction, and poaching. According to IUCN Red List, the effective population size is estimated to be fewer than 2,500. Mongolia’s snow leopard population is thought to number between 500 and 1,000.
Click here for the full press release from the Snow Leopard Trust. To learn more about SCI Foundation’s involvement in snow leopard research in Pakistan and Russia, read this First For Wildlife post here.
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