NYC - Lecture Series w/ James Gibbs
Event open to:
March 31, 2014
6:00 Reception, 7:00 Lecture
NYC Headquarters, 46 E70th Street, NY, NY, 10021
On the Brink: Saving Russia’s Last Snow Leopards
Snow leopards are one of the Russia’s most endangered species with a distribution mostly limited to the Altai-Sayan Mountains where recent surveys have revealed fewer than 100 individuals remaining. Alarmingly what was until recently considered the largest Russian snow leopard population — the Argut River basin in Altai Republic (30-40 individuals) — has been almost extirpated by snaring that occurred between 1970 and 2000. Poaching with wire snares is the most serious threat to snow leopards and urgent actions are needed to stop poaching and restore the Argut snow leopard population. In remote regions like Argut, snaring is often the only source of revenue for local families outside of their subsistence economy.
In 2010-2012, we initiated a project to pinpoint locations of Argut’s remaining snow leopards via sign survey and camera-trapping. We also helped develop intensive snare removal and anti-poaching patrols that have been conducted every winter in snow leopard habitats in cooperation with Altai Republic wildlife protection agencies and local volunteers. Simultaneously a small business development program (primarily wool-based handicraft development) was developed as an alternative to poaching.
As a result of this complex project, the number of snares in snow leopard habitats in Argut has decreased by 75%. Tracks and camera-trap images of snow leopards give real hope that a small group of snow leopards (at least 5-8 individuals) still resides that is capable of reproducing and repopulating the Argut River watershed. This group may be an offshoot of a significant population in western Mongolia and one in eastern Kazakhstan, indicating that cross-border movement may be critical to sustaining snow leopard populations. This presentation is aimed at the general public and focuses on the challenges, approaches and opportunities of saving the last snow leopards in this remote and ruggedly beautiful, most northern segment of the snow leopard’s range.
James P. Gibbs is Professor of Conservation Biology at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) in Syracuse, New York, where he also serves as Director of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station. He is a member of the General Assembly of the Charles Darwin Foundation, Vice Chair of the Altai (Siberia) Assistance Project, and is currently serving as “Wise Sage” for the Republic of Ecuador advising on conservation science in the Galapagos Islands. Gibbs’ research activities have most recently focused on use of wildlife by indigenous people in Guyana, conservation of Tanzania’s endemic amphibians, evolution and conservation of Galapagos tortoises and development of anti-poaching technologies for deployment in remote areas. His teaching focuses on conservation biology and herpetology. Gibbs has degrees in Wildlife Management (B.S., University of Maine, 1986), Ecology (M.A., University of Missouri, 1988) and Forestry and Environmental Studies (Ph.D. Yale, 1995).
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