Mongolia Snow Leopard

A research project in the remote Altai Mountains in Mongolia on the tracks of a legendary predator

The March 2015 expedition

The expedition was aimed at setting the first 25 camera trap stations of a grid of 50 to cover an area of about 1000 km2, between 2000 and 3000 m in elevation within the study area, the ‘Siilkhem B’ National Park. At the same time, the researchers trained the local personnel in the techniques used, and such local staff has then continued the study completing the sampling and removing the second grid of camera traps in June 2015.
The placing of camera traps was done by two team of researchers that helped by local assistants searched for optimal sites to set camera traps, based on tracks on snow and marking sites. Despite the freezing temperatures, up to -20 °C, all camera traps could be set without major porblems.

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The results from 2015

Camera traps produced over 2500 images from 2225 days of overall functioning. However, of these images, more than two thirds were of livestock and only about 700 of wildlife. Snow leopards appeared in only 17 images, and the analysis of the coat pattern has shown that these were only three different individuals. A very small number given the size of the overall study area. Among the other species camera trapped are the Siberian ibex, the main wild prey of the snow leopard, along with other 9 species including wolf, wolverine, steppe polecat, and the Siberian marmot.

These first results point to an area that appears over-used for livestock grazing, and where the snow leopard is at very low densities. Analysis showed that the low frequency with which the ibex was photographed is due to competitive exclusion by livestock. These results highlight that the snow leopard in the study area may be threatened by the large amount of livestock. This may generate conflicts and hence retaliatory killings of leopards. The ultimate cause of this situation is the growing global demand for cashmere, whereby Mongolia is one of the top producers in the world, boosting the original practice of livestock keeping towards levels that are unsustainable for the delicate balance of mountain areas.

For further information please contact Dr. Francesco Rovero:


The 2015 expedition team


Francesco Rovero

MUSE – Science Museum. Project coordinator.
Head of MUSE’s Tropical Biodiversity Section, Ph.D. in animal ecology, he is an ecologist, conservation biologist and mammal expert. He has been working in ecology and tropical biodiversity conservation for 15 years, and is an international expert in the use of camera trapping for wildlife research.

Rasmus Gren Havmøller

Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.
PhD student.

He is doing a PhD on leopards (Panthera pardus) on the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania, at the boundary between ecology and population genetics, and captured dozens of leopards with the photo traps used in Mongolia.

Claudio Augugliaro

Green Initiative. Scientific representative of the local partner
Scientific coordinator of Green Initiative, MSc in ecology and biogeography at the University of Palermo (Italy) and a post-degree Master in management and conservation of species subject to international trade. He is involved in fauna and flora conservation projects in Mongolia and was scientific consultant for CITES - European Union 2010-2013.

Jukhan Mergenbai

Mongolian Altai Range Protected Areas. Field researcher and local staff member.
He was born and lives in Bayan Olgii, close to the project area. He obtained a BSc in agriculture in Mongolia, and possesses certified field research skills for snow leopards.

Claudio Groff

Expert of big carnivors.
Member of Bear Specialist Group, IUCN and of the Big Carnivore Platform of the Alpine Convention, he studies the management of big carnivores in Trentino.

Fridolin Zimmermann

Expert of big carnivore conservation.
PhD in conservation and ecology of the Eurasian lynx, he currently coordinates the big carnivore monitoring program in Switzerland, at the Carnivore Ecology and Wildlife Management (KORA).

Annalisa Brambilla

Prospekt/MUSE. Video-operator and photographer.
Communication Science graduate, Master in Photojournalism at the University of Westminster, she is a freelance photographer and video maker for business, publishing and documentary purposes. She currently works for Prospekt (Milan).

Frederik Wolff Teglhus

Natural History Museum of Denmark. Video-operator.
MSc in biology with over 10 years of experience in movie and media production. He also worked as an assistant operator in important cinema and advertising productions.


Behind the scenes


Simone Tenan

MUSE - Science Museum. Scientific planning and data analysis support.
Researcher at the Vertebrate Zoology division, PhD in ecology at the University of Pavia, he is an ecologist and bio-statistician mainly working in applied ecology.



Aaron Iemma

MUSE, Science Museum. Cartography and GIS support.
Collaborator of the Vertebrate Zoology division as an IT technician, he mainly deals with inserting fauna databases in GIS systems.



Fabio Pupin

MUSE, cultural mediation. Logistics of video-documentary production.
PhD in ecology at the University of Pavia, naturalist and photographer, he looks after video productions within the Museum.



Choikhand Janchivlamdan

Director of Green Initiative.
PhD in fauna conservation and ecosystemic services at the University of Leicester, UK. She participates in numerous international fauna conservation projects.


Mountain outfit and equipment

Video and photo traps