Exciting new survey shows stable snow leopard population in Mongolia

First-ever population survey assessment brings good news for the vulnerable species

A snow leopard stalks along a mountain pass in Mongolia

Mongolia’s first-ever national snow leopard survey shows that the country’s population of this elusive, big cat is stable. The survey confirmed the presence of approximately 953 snow leopards—an exciting discovery because it indicates that current conservation efforts are effective and will help develop future strategies to protect this charismatic big cat.

WWF Mongolia, in partnership with the Mongolian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), and numerous other partners conducted the survey, which took four years to complete.

Snow leopards are apex predators in their mountain ecosystems and are important indicators of the health of the landscapes they live in. Their range within Asia’s high mountains spans 12 countries, covering 2 million square kilometers in one of the harshest terrains in the world. Mongolia is home to the second-largest snow leopard population within this range.

Learning about snow leopards and their distribution is a difficult task. These cats are not only elusive in nature and have well-camouflaged fur, but recent WWF research has found that only 23% of the big cat's habitat has been surveyed. Added to this, only 3% of all snow leopard research activity is dedicated to population assessments, which means there are critical gaps in understanding how many of these big cats are left in the wild

WWF, GSLEP, and snow leopard range countries are leading the on-the-ground efforts to collect robust estimates of snow leopard populations across their range. In 2016, Bhutan was the first country to conduct a snow leopard population survey, followed by Russia, and now Mongolia this year. These and further estimates will help us understand how the snow leopard population is fairing so that range states can better assess future changes and evaluate the impact of conservation actions.