Xinjiang, ChinaThe Xinjiang Snow Leopard Project (XSLP) is an initiative started by the Beijing Forestry University and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at Oxford University. You can read about the project on their website.
The team is working closely with the Xinjiang Government and local communities to research what’s happening with snow leopards and their prey in the Taxkurgan Nature Reserve of West Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is an autonomous region (with its own local government) of China. It is a huge, sparsely populated area, of over 1.6 million square kilomteres (about one sixth of the China’s territory) and shares a border with the Tibet Autonomous Region. The last published information about snow leopard numbers in this area is from the 1980s where George Schaller estimated in one of the local communities that there were between 50 and 75 snow leopards.
This project is really important to see what has happened to the snow leopards here in the last 20 odd years. The team knew from sightings by local herders that snow leopards were still in the area and the recent camera shot of a cat confirmed that. The continuing 2009 work will help to establish numbers and impacts on local herder communities.
The team is made up of staff from Beijing including Shi Kun, Director of the Institute of Wildlife Conservation ＆ Management at Beijing Forestry University as well as field biologists from Xinjiang and a senior postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Dr Philip Riordan. The team is keeping a blog of the project. Check it out here.