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Saturday, December 10, 2011

First-ever picture of a snow leopard in Siberia… perhaps next time he’ll turn around


ce to see you: A snow leopard is caught by a motion-sensor camera on a ridge in Siberia

The incredibly rare and elusive snow leopard has been photographed for the first ever time in Siberia, though he's evidently a bit camera shy.

Conservationists had seen signs of the big cat in the area before, but had never caught one on film.

The leopard was snapped in late October roaming along the Chikhachyova Ridge in the Altai Republic, which lies at an altitude of 13,100 feet.

Mountainous: The snow leopard was spotted on a ridge in a remote region of Russia

Conservationist James Gibbs, from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in New York, along with other researchers, had seen tell-tail clues that there was a snow leopard population in Siberia earlier in the year.

In a bid to secure absolute proof 10 motion-sensor cameras were placed in spots they thought a leopard might wander past – and the plan worked.

Gibbs said in a statement: ‘To get a picture is really a big deal. The signs that the species is in this region are definitive but a picture is irrefutable.

Face time: From the front snow leopards look like this. This is a pair that live at Brookfield Zoo near Chicago

‘Snow leopards leave clear signs that you see readily if you look for them. You can find scat and places where they scratch trees with their claws.

‘And you see their scrapes, circular depressions made in the gravel that are slightly discoloured. They maintain these scent marks. If you see fresh ones, you know snow leopards are in the area.’

Only some 4,500 to 7,500 snow leopards live across a dozen nations in the high mountain ranges of Central Asia, usually at altitudes between 9,800 and 18,000 feet. The cats are poached for their pelts and killed by shepherds guarding their flocks upon which the leopards sometimes prey.

The sleek, fuzzy-tailed leopards are also captured for the pet trade, while an increasing demand for their penises and bones in China, where some believe they enhance sexual performance, has also led to their decimation.



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