From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan (

Hello everyone and welcome to the Tien Shan 2016 expedition diary!

My name is Malika and I will be your expedition leader on the first group together with Phil. Phil will then take over leading groups 2 & 3 of this year’s snow leopard conservation expedition to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

Malika Fettak
Malika Fettak
Phil Markey
Phil Markey

For the third time this Biosphere Expeditions project will be run in collaboration with NABU Kyrgyzstan and the ‘Gruppa Bars’ (snow leopard patrol), consisting of four Kyryzs NABU members of staff that work in snow leopard conservation all whole year round. Each group will be accompaigned by two Gruppa Bars members (and I’ll introduce you to everyone in due course). They will be our guides, mountain experts, spokespeople and link to the local herders.

Dr. Volodya Tytar, originally from the Ukraine, is the expedition scientist. He has been working on this snow leopard project for more than a decade from the very beginning in the Altai mountains of Russia, before the study site was moved to Kyrgyzstan in 2014. If you would like to read about last year’s results, the 2015 expedition report will be ready for downloading within the next few days. You’ll receive an e-mail notification soon! Older reports are on

Dr. Volodya Tytar
Dr. Volodya Tytar

As in previous years, we will also have a couple of local placements on each group. They all have a specific interest in conservation, good knowledge of English and will help with communications in general and with conducting interviews at local herders’ yurts in particular.

So far so good. All staff involved are busy with organising things by e-mailing from our desks in Germany, the UK, Kiev and Bishkek, but we will all finally meet at the Bishkek NABU office on Sunday. So we will be about a week ahead of you, fetching base camp equipment from storage, checking and shopping for items that need to be replaced, buying supplies, etc. We will scout out a base camp location, set up camp, meet our cook Emma, shop for food (a lot) and make sure everything will be ready and in place for research work to commence when the first team arrives.

As regards the research work, have a look below, where methods and equipment are explained. The more you know now, the easier it will be for you during the first two training days, so do swot up, if you can. In addition to studying the dossier, have a look at the “Methods & equipment” playlist. The bits that are relevant to the expedition are first and foremost our cell survey methodology, followed by GPS, compass & map, Garmin etrex 20, PBLs, camera trapping and binoculars. Enjoy!

Finally, a word on some additional research we will be doing (that is not mentioned in the dossier): Amadeus, a local placement who joined the expedition in 2015, has created a ‘Butterflies of Kyrgyzstan’ app based on data that were collected last year. We will continue collecting butterfly data along the way on survey walks either by pen & paper or, much better, by putting data directly into the app. The app is available for downloading at WWW.DISCOVERNATURE.ORG.KG (Android version only). So, if you are planning to bring your personal Android smartphone, please consider downloading the app (how we will recharge all the phones in the absence of a convenient power plug is another matter ;). We will also be collecting data on birds that will contribute to creating a similar ‘Birds of Kyrgyzstan’ app in due course. Of course you will be trained on all of this during the introduction and training day!

That’s it for now. Once Phil and I have arrived in Bishkek we’ll be in touch again with our local phone numbers and some more updates from the ground.

Best wishes

Malika Fettak

Expedition leader

From our snow leopard volunteering expedition in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan 

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