Photographer: G-Jun Yam
Title: Mountain Ghost Conservation
Location: Kyrgyzstan
Period: 03/2021 - 06/2021
Category: Environment

Snow leopards are among the most endangered big cats on earth. In Kyrgyzstan, there were around 1,400 animals roaming the mountain ranges in the 1980s, today it is estimated only around 300 snow leopards remain in the country. During the Soviet era, snow leopards were heavily hunted for their furs, but poaching the elusive cats have since been banned by Kyrgyz law in 1999. However, their habitat continues to be encroached upon by humans. To protect high altitude ecosystem, the Kyrgyz government set up nature reserves in different parts of the country where a high population of snow leopards and their natural preys can be detected. The nature reserves serve as a border to barred live stocks from grazing the lands and only authorize personal such as rangers and conservationists are allowed to enter.

Sarychat-Ertash Nature Reserve was established in 1995 with a purpose of conservation of unique nature complexes, rare and threatened species of flora and fauna of Issyk-Kul Region. The reserve sits on average 3000 meters above sea level, at the top of pass it is a high altitude tundra, where animals such as snow leopard, argali, ibex, marmot and other rare species live. Weather in the reserve is often unpredictable, rangers and conservationists do not receive weather forecast which makes their work significantly harder as patrolling and camera trapping requires them to travel vast distances on horseback. Horses are the main form of transportation within the reserve as there are no proper roads. Rocky boulders, muddy soil and steep slopes makes traveling by car impossible.



Dusk Search

Kuban a conservationist tries to spot wildlife at Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve on May 21 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan

Argali Sightings

An argali emerges as sunrise over Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve on May 20 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard Scouting

Kuban a conservationist scans the mountain ranges at Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve on May 20 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan

Sunrise Cabin

Sunrise over a cabin where rangers and conservationists spend the night at Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve on May 22 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan

Breakfast with Rangers

Kuban right a conservationist eats breakfast with a group of rangers inside a cabin at Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserveon May 21 2021 in Issyk Kul

Ranger Cabin Life

Horses rest outside the cabin at Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve on May 21 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan

Wildlife Census Report

Rangers input their findings into a form at Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve on May 22 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan

Long Trekking

Kuban right a conservationist and his assistant Benazir pull their horses as they return after retrieving camera traps on May 21 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan

Resting Argali

A skull of an argali lays next to a rock at Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve on May 22 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard Scent

Kuban a conservationist points at a scat of a snow leopard on May 20 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan Snow leopards are among the most endangered big cats on earth

Snow Leopard Rehabilitation

Ak-Moor a seven-year-old snow leopard receive her vaccination at NABU Rehabilitation Center on June 05 2021 in Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan