The snow leopard is one of the rarest mammals of Kazakhstan, where the cats’ habitat is fragmented over a minimum area of 50,000 sq km. Snow leopard population groups have transboundary connections with The Altai Republic of Russia, Mongolia, China, and Kyrgyzstan. The Dzungarian Alatau (see map) has Kazakhstan’s greatest potential population, but specific studies have never been conducted in the 300,000 hectare Zhongar-Alatausky National Park. Katon-Karagai National Park, in East Kazakhstan, at more than 600,000 hectares, protects habitat of snow leopard and Argali. Poaching has decreased around this park, but other parts of East Kazakhstan and adjacent areas of Almaty remain unprotected. Kazakhstan has no financing to create new protected areas.
Here, as elsewhere in post-Soviet Central Asia, people have endured hardships in their daily lives, and they need help in restoring respect for wildlife and reestablishing effective protection measures. The Snow Leopard Conservancy and the Snow Leopard Fund Kazakhstan (SLF) are partners in initiating community-based conservation action. SLF was established in 2009 to address the lack in Kazakhstan of government measures and NGO involvement in snow leopard conservation. SLF aims to restore the snow leopard as the symbol of Kazakhstan’s mountains and a symbol of national pride. SLF grew out of Club Irbis (Irbis means snow leopard in Russian), which was formed by Oleg and Irina Loginov in 1993.
Our initial target areas are Katon-Karagai and Zhongar-Alatausky National Parks. SLF founders led the effort to create Katon Karagai NP, which is a transboundary protected area (with Russia), and a survey on the Russian side recently revealed camera trap images of snow leopards. Zhongar-Alatausky National Park is on the border with China. SLF has active partners in both parks.
In 2012, local wildlife monitors camera trapped a snow leopard, a big step in helping communities appreciate the ecology of the mountains and see the benefits of conservation.
In January 2013, SLF director Oleg Loginov and researcher Sergey Starikov made the 16-hour round trip drive to Katon Karagay N.P., to meet with the park’s research assistants and develop an agreement for cooperation. While winter travel is more difficult, key staff are more available than in the summer field season. See photo of the signing: Oleg Loginov, right, with park director Erlan Mustafin.
Park employees also shared photos of snow leopard tracks found in 2012.