Project yields rare footage of snow leopards
By Zhang Xinrui, Xu Chenlu, Xing Fangyu

The Yanchiwan National Nature Reserve in Gansu Province recently collected their outdoor infrared cameras and found more than 60 recordings of snow leopard activities. 

Organized by World Wildlife Funds (WWF) and the Yanchiwan National Nature Reserve, the project's goal is to capture and monitor the snow leopard and its preying activities. 

Snow leopard lives in the mountains of Central and South Asia. China has as much as 60 percent of the snow leopard's habitat, mostly distributed among the southwest and northwest parts of the country. Due to threats like the loss of habitat and poaching, the population of this big cat was declining annually. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List includes the snow leopard under the “Vulnerable” category, and it's listed as a First-Class State Protected Animal in China.

A snow leopard walking in snow. /VCG Photo

A snow leopard walking in snow. /VCG Photo

To protect the snow leopard from extinction, the Chinese government established strict laws and regulations in 1989. Poaching or trade of snow leopard products will result in severe penalties. Local governments also established 26 nature reserves around the animal's habitats. 

Herders are a priority in protecting snow leopards. Initiatives have helped improve awareness among herders and the government provides livestock insurance as compensation for those who lose livestock to the snow leopard. 

In Yushu, Qinghai, herdsmen rescued an injured snow leopard and notified the authorities after a herder found that his yak was eaten by snow leopards.

What's more, herdsmen are also part of the monitoring work with the help of researchers and institutions. In the area of Sanjiangyuan, more than 150 herdsman monitors have been on duty. Herdsmen use infrared cameras, GPS and telescopes to detect the animals. They are responsible for more than 200 infrared cameras and their data, covering an area of 4,000 square kilometers.

A snow leopard in snowing day. /VCG Photo

A snow leopard in snowing day. /VCG Photo

According to IUCN, the number of snow leopards in Sanjiangyuan region has increased in the past 20 years, demonstrating the progress in the cooperation between the government and local herders.

However, according to the Snow Leopard Protection Report 2018, only 1.7 percent of the animal's habitats are being monitored in China. This reveals that exploration of the snow leopard is still limited. To make progress on the protection of the animal, China hosted an international conference on snow leopards in Shenzhen and called on greater collaboration between countries to protect this vulnerable species.