Mongolia Approves Vast Reserve for Snow Leopards

A new national park will conserve an intact habitat for the rare mountain cat.
May 8, 2016·
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

Snow leopards—among the world’s rarest big cats—got some good news when the Mongolian parliament recently voted to create a nature reserve in the Tost Mountains of South Gobi province, along the country’s southeastern border.

“This Nature Reserve will be a bridge between two existing protected areas, the Great Gobi and the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park,” Charu Mishra, director of science and conservation for the Snow Leopard Trust, said in a statement. “The resulting landscape will be one of the world’s largest continuous protected snow leopard habitats.”

There are two active mines and 12 mines planned for the 3,150-square-mile area under consideration for the park, according to the trust. Once the park’s final boundaries are set, a process that should be completed by mid-June, the government is supposed to revoke mining licenses for any lands that fall inside the park.

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Scientists have been studying snow leopards in the Tost Mountains since 2008, according to the Snow Leopard Trust, tracking the cats using GPS collars and camera traps—which caught the video above of snow leopards in South Gobi during the winter of 2014–15.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the snow leopard as endangered because of climate change, poaching, and conflicts with humans. Herders kill the big cats to prevent or avenge livestock losses and graze their herds on grasslands that snow leopard prey, such as ibex, also need to survive.

Mongolia is thought to contain around 1,000 of the world’s remaining 3,000 to 7,500 snow leopards—the second-largest population among the 12 Central Asian nations in the snow leopard’s range.