The 2022 Snow Leopard Selfies Are Here!

Our researchers don’t go door-to-door (cave-to-cave?) counting snow leopards. Instead, we rely on dozens of well-placed cameras to help us estimate and monitor snow leopard populations.

It’s that time of year again when our camera trap images take us on a journey to Mongolia’s Tost Tosonbomba Nature Reserve to examine the goings-on of its resident snow leopards. This protected area within the Gobi Desert is home to a thriving snow leopard population that our researchers have been tracking and studying on-the-ground for nearly two decades. 

So what’s changed from last year’s survey? Tost continues to host a stable population of snow leopards. Our researchers estimate there are 20 established residents (cats we’ve seen on camera for at least three years and breeding females) and two floaters (both transient sub-adult cats without an established home range). This is in line with the 21 resident snow leopards and seven floaters we tracked in 2021.

Over the course of about three months in 2022, we counted a total of 184 unique ‘capture events’ on 43 cameras across 2,185 square kilometers of habitat. As a snow leopard passes by, it triggers our motion-activated cameras. One ‘capture event’ = one visit by a cat. These cameras are set up by trained Tost community rangers and placed in locations suitable to ‘capture’ a snow leopard – usually at existing marking spots and along mountain passes where snow leopards are likely to traverse.

There are some familiar faces this year, as many resident cats surveyed in 2021 were also accounted for in 2022. Tost’s increasingly-famous residents are not camera-shy – most notably Kurzawa, a male with 18 on-camera appearances during the 2022 season. But he did have some close competition this year.

Kurzawa. Tost’s reigning “selfie” king

Returning Rosettes

The males of Tost
  • Kurzawa (M19) again takes the crown for “most photographed” snow leopard in Tost. His movements across his vast home range in central Tost are still being monitored. You may remember he was collared last autumn.
  • Avrag Tom, Great Champion, “The Dude (M15),” this cat of many names is the 15th collared male in our study and continues to roam his central home range. He was photographed on 16 different occasions. We have been monitoring him since 2018. 
  • Djingis (M14) and Namar (M18) continue to inhabit Tost, with Namar specifically occupying the far eastern parts of the area. Our collaring work allowed us to observe that in 2019, M18 ventured into the western part of M14’s home range. Eventually, M18 established his home range towards the east of Tost, taking over the eastern sections of M14’s home range.
  • [Name redacted] is the 20th male and most recent cat collared in our long-term ecological study. We have seen him on cameras in Tost since 2020. His descriptive name (he’s nicknamed Suul3 for now) will be revealed after our researchers publish a paper detailing his interesting behavior – stay tuned!
  • Sym was first observed roaming in the central area of Tost in 2019. By 2020, he had established a home range within the region. Sym has occupied the same area for three consecutive years.

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The females of Tost
  • Presnel (F15) was fitted with a GPS-tracking collar last autumn. Our researchers are still monitoring her movements (and her three cubs!). She is the daughter of Dagina and ‘granddaughter’ of Agnes – this snow leopard family is one of three lineages we have tracked through multiple generations.
  • Kuurhun ach (F10) or ‘beautiful granddaughter,’ is the tenth female in our Tost study. She was seen with a subadult in 2022, indicating that at least one of her two cubs from her fourth litter survived. 
  • Willian (F12) was observed with a new cub in 2021, but we did not see her with a subadult this year. It’s possible her cub did not survive.
  • F11 is the daughter of Anu from 2017. She is another member of one of the snow leopard families we have tracked through multiple generations. We have never observed F11 with cubs in her four years as an adult, which is unusual.
  • Antoine is yet another cat from Anu’s lineage, born in 2015. We saw her with two new cubs this year, her second litter.
  • Zaya was seen with a new cub, at least her second litter.
  • Akka, found in the far northeast of Tost, was seen without subadults following her. It’s possible her two cubs born in 2021 did not survive.
  • ​​Clown was not observed with her cub that was detected in 2021. It’s possible her cub did not survive.

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It appears that four females have lost cubs since 2021, indicating a challenging year. 

The Nonresidents

  • An as-yet-unnamed male born in 2019 to Dagina has taken over Tsetsen’s home range in the west of Tost, possibly displacing him. He was one of the three cubs we tagged during a den visit in 2019. We are thrilled to see that he is still alive. Observing a male snow leopard settle near its mother’s home range is also very rare, adding to our understanding of dispersal.
  • The snow leopards we refer to as “Eight,” “Big Spots” and “Nomadic” have all been seen on camera for two years now. If they show up on our cameras in 2023, they will be considered full-fledged residents of Tost. However, “Eight” was once again observed roaming large areas of Tost, indicating that he has not yet established a home range.
  • Rando was first photographed outside Tost, in the nearby Noyon area, in January 2021. By July of the same year, he had traveled to Tost and has now been observed for two years. 
  • Two cubs born to Guierro in 2020 were detected. These cubs have now reached adulthood and separated from their mother. They seem to be filling the void left by their mother who was not observed this year. We will continue to monitor them closely to determine if they disperse to new territories or remain in Tost.

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Cats Off Camera

A few well-known residents were not seen on camera last year. We’ve shared some insights below.

  • Dagina is one of our oldest females in Tost – born in 2009. During the survey, we expected to observe her traveling with her subadult cubs, which were approximately 18 months old. In the spring, they would typically start to leave their mother’s side. While we did not capture Dagina herself on camera, we did see two of her cubs in multiple instances.
  • Anu (F5) is one of the oldest females in Tost. She was born in 2009 to a female named Inquisitive. This year, she would have also turned 14 years old. However, over the past few years, she has become increasingly difficult to detect, and our last photographs of her were taken in the spring of 2022. It is uncertain whether she is still alive or if she has passed away. We will only be able to determine her current status through continued camera-trapping efforts in the upcoming years.
  • Tsetsen (M11) was not observed on camera in 2022 and his former home range has been taken over by a younger male. It is possible that Tsetsen was displaced or killed by the younger, stronger male (he is most likely 11-12 years old, one of the oldest males in Tost). We have written a more detailed account of Tsetsen’s life here.
  • Nachin Devekh (M13) was the smallest adult male we have ever observed in Tost. He is also the oldest known male in the area. He was born in 2010 to a female named Suhder (F1). He would have been about 13 years old in 2023. However, there is a possibility that he has either passed away or moved to the mountains outside the range of our camera traps.
  • F13 is Presnel’s cub, born in 2017 (making her Dagina’s grandcub). She had her first litter in 2020 and was seen traveling with her subadult last year. However, this year we did not detect her. At the moment, we cannot confirm whether she is still in the area. We hope to capture her on camera soon.
  • One Eye (F14) was not detected this year. She was previously observed with an injury to her leg and had lost one eye. It was encouraging to see her resilience when she was observed with a subadult in 2021, demonstrating the ability of snow leopards to survive and take care of a cub despite injuries. 
  • Guierro is a resident female in Tost. It was surprising not to detect her this year. We will continue to monitor the area closely and remain hopeful that we will detect her in the future.

This deep understanding of individual snow leopards and monitoring of their population is made possible by an extensive network of camera traps placed annually throughout the Tost nature reserve. These cameras help us better understand snow leopard reproduction (i.e., how often females have cubs), the survival rate of cubs, and have assisted us in monitoring female lineages over multiple generations for almost two decades. This window into snow leopards’ reproductive habits will help better inform conservation efforts.

While camera traps are a valuable tool in our arsenal of research methods, they also have one great benefit the others lack – stunning, silly and superb snow leopard selfies we get to share with you.

If you’d like to support our camera trap program, please consider making a donation by clicking “Donate” at the top of this page.

This Long-Term Ecological Study is in collaboration with Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation in Mongolia and Snow Leopard Trust with special thanks to the Ministry for Environment and Green Development, the Government of Mongolia, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences for their support.

SLT would also like to acknowledge: Acton Family Giving, Bioparc Zoo de Doue la Fontaine, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park, Kolmarden Zoo, Korkeasaari Zoo, Nordens Ark, Play for Nature, Tierpark Berlin, The Big Cat Sanctuary/Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Tulsa Zoo, Whitley Fund for Nature, Zoo Basel, Zoo Dresden, and Zoo New England.

Special thanks to Enkhburen (Buren) Nyam, Choidogjamts “Choidog” Byambasuren, Purevjav “Pujii” Lkhagvajav, Justine Shanti Alexander, and the Tost community rangers for all their work in implementing the camera trap research and painstakingly identifying these individual snow leopards!

Thank you to all the many committed partners who have supported our research in Mongolia along with  our Long-term Ecological Study since it began in 2008. We could not do this work without you.


  1. I’m sad to learn that four females appear to have lost cubs this past year. I’m hoping this is part of the natural variation of birth rates and not human-induced although I suspect otherwise given how destructive we are. If you could write more about how cub mortality, causes, rates, etc., would be interesting to know.

    1. Hello Francisca, yes it is indeed sad. Unfortunately we don’t have a definite answer, we’re still learning about cub mortality and reproduction habits of snow leopards. We do know that it was especially dry year in Tost, with little grass available for prey species to graze, which could have had an impact. It’s also possible we missed some of the cubs on our cameras. I will pass along your interest to our science team and perhaps we can write more about this topic in the future.

  2. It is very inspiring to see your hard work and dedication to helping Snow Leopards. They are such beautiful creatures and I always get excited to see the photos of them in the wild.

  3. Thank you for these pictures. I really appreciate being able to see the cats. Keep up the good work.

  4. These are beautiful and stunning pictures, it is very inspiring to see all of these gorgeous animals surviving so well in their native habitat. Thank you for all of the amazing work that you do at SLT in protecting these incredible animals!

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