Snow Leopard Presence Confirmed in Western Sichuan

A team of researchers from our Chinese partner organization, Shan Shui, found signs of snow leopard presence in Sichuan’s Ganzi Prefecture, an area that had last been surveyed 8 years ago. However, densities appear to be lower than elsewhere in China.

[updated April 1, 2015]

The China team just finished a one-month-long survey in the Ganzi Prefecture of Sichuan Province to evaluate the status of and threats to snow leopards.

Dr. George Schaller, the Vice President of Panthera, initiated this trip to revisit this area after his initial trip in March of 1998. Mr. Zhou Huaming, Director of Gongga Mountain Natural Reserve, joined the survey and contributed greatly with his over 20 years of wildlife experience.

Personnel from Shan Shui and Peking University joined this survey, including Liu Yanlin, Cheng Chen, He Bing, Mei Suonancuo, Xiao Lingyun, Zhao Xiang, Hu Yanan and two volunteers.

a wild snow leopard photographed in China's Sangjuangyuan area, one the country's prime snow leopard habitat
a wild snow leopard photographed in China’s Sanjiangyuan area, one the country’s prime snow leopard habitat

The mountainous area of Ganzi Prefecture was suggested to hold potential habitats for snow leopards according to Dr. Li Juan’s prediction, but little information was known besides some presence records from camera traps in Luoxu NR in the west and Gongga Mountain NR in the east, respectively since 2007.

This survey covers twelve sites in five counties, including Kangding, Luhuo, Shiqu, Ganzi and Batang. The team was divided to check snow leopard signs, count blue sheep, and interview communities. The field observations, combined with thirty household interviews, also indicate that historical hunting from 1950s to 1990s might be responsible for blue sheep depletion in many areas.

signs of snow leopard presence in Sichuan
signs of snow leopard presence in Sichuan
a snow leopard has left his tracks in the snow
a snow leopard has left its tracks in the snow


The presence of snow leopards and leopards is now confirmed in Gongga Mountain and Luoxu Township. However, the researchers only found a few snow leopard spoors during the trip, which may indicate that a lower density of snow leopards inhabit the Ganzi Prefecture than Sanjiangyuan and the Qilian Mountain region in the Qinghai province.

Forty nature reserves have been established to cover 24% of the land in Ganzi and in each reserve, village rangers are hired to manage wildlife.

a map showing Mt. Gongga, where snow lepopard presence was confirmed.

A meeting with Sichuan Forestry took place on March 27th. The survey team presented the finding to Mr. Wang Hongjia, Director of the Conservation Office in Sichuan Forestry.  Mr. Wang Hongjia encouraged the team to develop monitoring and conservation protocols on snow leopards.

These protocols could then be used by nature reserves and forestry departments to help train staff and students for snow leopard conservation.

During and after this trip, Dr. Schaller gave three inspiring presentations respectively in Yushu Vocational School, Youth Zone in Chengdu, and Natural History Museum in Beijing.  All three speeches attracted lots of young people, even kids, who were interested in wildlife. Dr. Schaller shared his wildlife research experiences in Tibetan Plateau, China and all around the world, and encouraged people to take part in wildlife conservation.

the team from Shan Shui with Dr. Schaller
the team from Shan Shui with Dr. Schaller

Dr. Schaller also gave his comments in an interview on a controversial TV ape show in China. He said the television station should be blamed for its irresponsibility, but above all we should call for more robust laws and moral principles on how we treat great apes.

based on a report by Cheng Chen from Shan Shui

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