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Scientists from the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography (XIEG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences joined a pilot snow leopard protection project launched Aug. 18 in the easterTianshan Mountains, a major habitat of the species in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.


The protection project was launched with a memorandum of cooperation signed between the Beijing office of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the local forest and wildlife administration.


The project involves installing more infrared cameras in the region, training staff on snow leopard protection, strengthening patrols, preserving habitats, and increasing public awareness through forums, seminars, and documentaries.


Located in the arid inland Central Asia, Tianshan Mountains harbors abundant plant resources and unique fauna, especially snow leopard, one of the Class-A protected animals in China.


Snow leopard is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. “Recent decades have seen constant decline of its population due to habitat destruction, poaching, reduced food resources, and climate change,” said MA Ming, a researcher from XIEG.


The global population was estimated at less than 6,000 mature individuals, according to MA.


Western China has the most concentrated distribution of world’s snow leopards, accounting for more than 60 per cent of the total amount. Xinjiang is the core distribution area of snow leopard.


WWF has launched species protection programs in most countries where snow leopards are distributed, such as Russia, Mongolia, and Nepal. In 2016, the snow leopard protection program started in China.

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