Tien Shan: ulak and interviews

Update from our snow leopard volunteer project to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Aman, our chief ranger, spotted them first, through binoculars. Once he pointed them out to us, they were obvious, even to the naked eye. Around twenty vultures circling over a spot on the far hillside, occasionally landing and pecking at… something. It was a dead horse. This valley is home to many herds of horses – not wild, but roaming free – and they occasionally fall victim to wolves. The vultures we saw might spend a few days getting a meal from what the wolves had left, a reminder for us of the circle of life.

Vultures are not part of our snow leopard expedition, but they are one of the more dramatic creatures that we have seen on this expedition. Our valley seems to have an unusually high population of large birds of prey. We see bearded vultures, golden eagles, buzzards and other raptors every day, often flying or perched on a rock very close to us. On group 2 we have also seen badgers – smaller, lighter coloured and less nocturnal than their European cousins, a mysteriously tame weasel and other mustelids, as well as a host of smaller bird species – wagtails, warblers, larks and choughs have all been seen and identified. The choughs are especially a welcome accompaniment to our high mountain walks, with their acrobatic flight and musical calls.

Most days we spend on hikes, slowly surveying many of the side valleys, peaks and ridges, looking for any evidence of the species we are researching – snow leopards and their main prey species (ibex, argali, marmots and snowcocks). Most days our small teams find something to report – marmots are relatively common on the lower slopes. Footprints or scat of ibex are found on the higher slopes and sometimes – always to great excitement – we see a herd of ibex walking along a ridge or up a slope. All of these findings are photographed and recorded on datasheets according to our research protocols.

We have also been deploying camera traps in suitable places – mostly on high ridges with signs of snow leopards or ibex – and have been able to check some of the cameras already. When we retrieve the traps or their SD cards, the exciting work of scrolling through all the photos begins. Many of them are of moving grass, sometimes even bright sunlight triggers them, so it is painstaking work. But sooner or later we are rewarded and we have happily discovered a handful of images of ibex, snowcocks and two snow leopards so far. These are important pieces of evidence for the research project as well as a source of great excitement for us at base camp. At the time of writing there are still a good few cameras waiting to be retrieved from the mountains by group 3.

We have had a few rainy cold days – this is the high mountains after all. But everyone has brought suitable clothing as recommended in the expedition kit list so our work continues whatever the weather. And the wood burner in our ‘drying’ yurt has proved very welcome when we return to base camp. An especially stormy night ripped a couple of our tents and we also suffered tent damage from a wayward animal. But we have enough spare tents, so no problem.

A new element of our research this year is a survey of the local shepherd families about the potential for ecotourism, which might offer a new source of income for local people, give an incentive to protect and encourage wildlife and perhaps in time allow a reduction in livestock numbers in the valley, which are in competition with the ibex and the argali. The interviews we have been carrying out are intended to assess interest in the idea. So far, volunteer citizen scientists Margot and Kathy have been our chief interviewers, accompanied by our scientist Taalai as interpreter. This team has been welcomed with wonderful hospitality by the women and men they have approached, and ten interviews have now been completed, with a great variety of responses. The great majority of people are in favour of small-scale ecotourism in the valley and at least one respondent said he would give up shepherding altogether in favour of an income from ecotourism.

These interviews have been a fantastic way of getting to know our neighbours. And more widely, it is clear that the Biosphere Expedition is very welcome here – the local shepherds are very hospitable and express a great interest in what we are doing. Last week we were invited to watch a game of Ulak – the national game of Kyrgyzstan, involving two teams of horse riders ferociously competing to score goals with a goat carcass – followed by a generous meal in a local shepherd’s yurt. Many toasts and promises of continued friendship and collaboration were made.

So group 2 has finished with great success and we look forward to starting our third and final group of this year’s snow leopard volunteer project in Kyrgyzstan on Monday.

Felix looking for ibex
Margot & Kathy with local shepherds
Pondering interview questions
Roland, Georg and Taalai on top of a ridge
Mountain survey
At the local natural history museum
Checking a camera trap
Ibex horns found in the field
Group 2

Continue reading “Tien Shan: ulak and interviews”

Tien Shan: Ibex, eagles, marmots and martens

Update from our snow leopard volunteer project to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Group 2 is going well. Covid has not reared its ugly head again, so after getting to base and two days of training, several more valleys have now been surveyed.

We put new camera traps on a high ridge by an ibex superhighway. Whilst doing this, we saw a group of ibex further up the same ridge. We also spotted marmots, stoats, badgers, many many eagles, vultures, buzzards, and many other birds.

We also started doing interviews with people in the main valley to find out about their attitudes towards low-scale / low-impact ecotourism based on intact nature as a means of generating income for them. Our first interviewees were five herder’s wives. We found varying attitudes towards tourism, including some very open to the idea of hosting tourists and providing horses. We have more interviews planned, including with the herders themselves. We are also starting conversations about how livestock numbers are restricted (not very effectively) in the valley and the possibility of creating buffer valleys for wildlife without livestock.

Yesterday, Sunday, we came over the pass and into a local village with a phone signal, which is why I can send this diary update. A fuller account next weekend when we change over to group 3.

We’ve seen many, many butterflies
Ibex
Mustelids (here a stoat)
And birds (here probably a golden eagle)
Collecting possible snow leopard scat
Collecting possible snow leopard scat
Setting up a camera trap on an ibex superhighway
The going is often tough in these pathless, undeveloped mountains
Expeditioners

Continue reading “Tien Shan: Ibex, eagles, marmots and martens”

Tien Shan: Group 1 summary

Update from our snow leopard volunteer project to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan

It’s been a memorable two weeks. This has been the first Tien Shan snow leopard volunteer expedition for three years, we have a new scientist on the ground and various new equipment and systems, alongside the challenge of managing Covid risk on expedition.

The eleven snow leopard citizen scientists on this expedition can be proud of themselves as pioneers. The full team – the citizen scientists Jason, Jörg, Valerie, Anke, Coleen, Anne, Pierre, Alan, Nadine & Lydie, expedition leaders Roland and Malika, scientist Taalai, rangers Aman, Beka and Ayan, cook Gulia and placement Kubanychek – got on well from the start. The first two days of orientation and training were busy, but rewarding. After weeks of preparation, it was great to get started.

The snow leopard expeditioners were trained in everything needed for the success of the expedition, from off-road driving to the snow leopard research methods and expedition safety protocols. The new toilet and shower huts are a big improvement. The expedition office, in the back of the truck, worked well as a base for all the science kit and Gulia fed us all well from the start. The new solar power system, to charge all the gadgets and yurt lights was a disappointment for the first few days until Jason (citizen scientist and also an engineer) and Roland spotted and – with a little ingenuity – fixed a loose connection. We now have power as expected. Our new GPS units have taken a lot of effort to set up, but now we have all learnt their eccentricities, they are a vital tool to use for navigation, to mark the locations and camera traps and important research finds, and for satellite communication.

Within a few days we hit a rhythm and stride. One aim of the expedition, amongst others, is to find evidence of snow leopards or their prey over a vast area centred on the Karakol valley. We have a relatively simple and robust methodology to do this – spending each day exploring hidden side valleys, marking the location of any significant finds – sightings, footprints or any other evidence of key species. A lot of time is spent sitting in this beautiful mountain landscape, peering through binoculars. We also deploy camera traps in strategic positions high in the mountains. And we keep a tally of any bird species we can identify. Trekking up these valleys, with river crossings, rocky terrain and steep ground is hard work, especially since there are no well-trodden paths, signposts, bridges or any other mod cons in these rugged and remote mountains. But our efforts have been rewarded with several sightings of ibex, a key prey species for snow leopards, as well as many marmots, eagles and vultures. A highlight was discovering on one of camera traps – amongst dozens of photos of marmots, foxes, stoats (and a few mystery animals) – recorded three photos of a snow leopard walking down a snowy ridge in late last and then ibex in the same spot early this year. The camera trap was placed there by our community camera trapping group and retrieved by group 1 a few days ago.

An unwanted twist to our snow leopard expedition story were two Covid infections early in the expedition, despite all our precautions, and then two more. Our Covid protocol was implemented with the first case and I am happy to report that we managed to stop the virus spreading further.

Towards the end of the expedition, a few hardy expeditioners chose to hike for six hours up to a spot high above base camp and spend a night under the stars, to allow the next day to be spent exploring a remote ridge with a lot of signs of ibex – a great location to place camera traps for both the ibex and, hopefully, any snow leopards that might be stalking them.

Over the past two weeks we have surveyed 100 ‘cells’ on our target map – representing 400 square kilometres of mountain terrain – we have had several sightings of ibex, recorded evidence of many key species and captured images of snow leopards on camera traps – all in all a great success. The team 1 now retires tired, but happy. From Monday, team 2 has big boots to fill and we look forward to exploring the Karakol Valley and add to our research findings. with a fresh team of citizen scientists

Survey walk
Collecting snow leopard sign
Observation stop
Team 1
Taalai is happy with the results
Survey walk
Setting up a camera trap
Overnighter team
Checking camera trap pictures
Ranger Aman showing the way
Observation stop
Base camp in all its glory
On a survey
Recording data
Programming camera traps

Continue reading “Tien Shan: Group 1 summary”

Tien Shan: Training in the rain and cold

Update from our snow leopard volunteer project to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan

The first group of snow leopard volunteer citizen scientists were there, all Covid-free on Monday. The drive to base was over a rough pass, which is almost free of snow now and just about passable for 4×4 cars.

At base, it rained and was cold. This did not change for the next two days of training, so it was tough going. When the rain stopped for a while, we put up the third yurt and put a stove in it. This helped.

With training (science, equipment, offroad driving, data collection etc.) complete, we went for a first survey as one group on Thursday. Today, Friday, the sun has come out and we are surveying in several groups for the first time.

Everyone’s in good spirits, healthy (except for a bothersome contact lens courtesy of which we can send this short diary entry) and having fun. More news when we get to a signal next. This might not be until changeover on 24/25 July, so please be patient.

On the way to base
Setting up the “hot” yurt
Setting up the “hot” yurt
Indoor training session
Programming camera traps at base
Setting up a camera trap
Surveying

Continue reading “Tien Shan: Training in the rain and cold”

Tien Shan: One week to go

Update from our snow leopard volunteer project to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Preparations begin long before our snow leopard citizen scientists start their journeys. This expedition especially involves A LOT of preparation. Our partners in Kyrgyzstan have been getting things ready and I, Roland, have now joined them in Bishkek for the last week’s push before the expedition starts.

Bishkek is located in one of the few parts of Kyrgyzstan that is not mountains and the weather here is hot hot hot and hazy. We will be heading up into the mountains in a few days to set up base camp and recce our expedition area, which will be much cooler – we may even have snow at base camp on some nights.

In the meantime, there is shopping to be done, kit to check and 4×4 vehicles to prepare. And meetings to be held too. Our base in Bishkek is the headquarters of NABU Kyrgyzstan, our main partner here, and this is where I have been spending my time when not shopping. I have been joined by Amadeus, a veteran of the Tien Shan expeditions (and former placement) and Taalai who is our new scientist directing the snow leopard research this year. I have also met Gulia, our base camp cook and Aman, our chief ranger, as well as Jirgal, Jengish, Ayan and Bek, the NABU rangers from the Grupa Barz (the NABU ranger group tasked with protecting snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan), who will be joining our groups on a rota system.

I am happy to say we are on target with preparations. Most of the shopping is now done and we have been through most of the kit – everything from tents, cooking stuff and fuel to a full mobile office and various gadgets for communication, navigation and safety. New this year are wooden huts for the toilet and shower (the tents used in previous years were not up to the job) and a set of GPS devices that give us digital mapping (for general navigation), a tool for research and a means of communication in an emergency in a region with no phone signal. We have also invested in a solar power system so that we can charge all the gadgetry properly. Tomorrow we will be joined by Malika, also a veteran of many a Tien Shan expedition and our expedition leader for the first group starting next Monday. But first, there is base camp to set up. I for one can’t wait to get up into those mountains.

We’ll send another diary entry once we are back in Bishkek. Happy packing, group 1!

From left: Tolkunbek (boss of NABU Kyrgyzstan), Ayan (NABU Grupa Barz ranger), Roland (expedition leader), Bek (NABU Grupa Barz ranger), Jengish (NABU Grupa Barz ranger), Jengish (NABU Grupa Barz ranger), Taalai (expedition scientist).
Amadeus and Aman food shopping
NABU truck that will get all the gear to the mountains
Container for gear storage and “flatpack” shower and toilet blocks
One thing the pandemic has taught is is meeting online more. Here Biosphere Expeditions executive director Matthias with the team in Bishkek

P.S. Roland now has a local SIM card and his number is +996 9972 07208 . This will only work when he’s in Bishkek though, so for example for group pick-up and changeover, but not when he’s in the mountains, where there is no mobile phone signal.

Continue reading “Tien Shan: One week to go”

Tien Shan: Base camp awaits

Update from our snow leopard volunteer project to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Base camp is now ready for the first group of snow leopard volunteer citizen scientists arriving on Monday. After a week of preparations in Bishkek, the team were ready to head up to our base camp location on Thursday first thing. The Ala-Too mountain range towers over Bishkek, offering an enticing view of jagged snowy peaks, but also a formidable obstacle to anyone wanting to travel to the Karakol valley on the other side – which is where our expedition base sits. Our usual route is over the infamous Camel Pass and through a 2 km tunnel drilled through the very top of this pass. But an accident in the tunnel earlier in the week meant the tunnel was out of action for a few days. Option 2 involves taking a different route from Bishkek and heading up the Karakol Pass – no tunnel on this route but a very steep road winding up the mountain side, almost certainly still snow-bound and too high a risk for our truck. In true expedition style, we came up with a plan C, a third route – taking an especially long and circuitous route involving many kilometres of driving on dirt tracks following all points of the compass. But it would get us to base camp without substantial obstacles. And so our fleet of vehicles set off with confidence, a truck and two 4x4s, one with a trailer. We spent the day following dusty roads winding down steep valleys hugging wild rivers, over sparse sheep-clad hills and always surrounded by huge rocky mountains any one if which could be home to snow leopards.

Finally, after a day and a half of driving, home for the next few weeks came into view. The spot sits in a long, wide valley of endless pastures overlooked by snow-capped peaks. The pastures are the summer home for many herders alongside the few permanent residents. We passed many yurts and herds of sheep, cattle and horses on our long journey up the dirt track. The air is clear and cool, a relief compared with Bishkek. Base camp is right next to the river and partly hidden from the main track.

The team are well practiced at setting up base and it was not long before our yurts, tents and (new for 2022) shower and toilet huts were up. Gulia cooked up our supper and we declared base camp open and ready for the first snow leopard expedition group starting on Monday. See you in Bishkek!

Base camp central
Home…
…with luxury ablutions
Lots of gear and a yurt
Staff dinner
Spot the nod to Bavaria and the Alps – ask Malika for details if unsure

Continue reading “Tien Shan: Base camp awaits”

Tien Shan: One week to go

Update from our snow leopard volunteer project to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Preparations begin long before our snow leopard citizen scientists start their journeys. This expedition especially involves A LOT of preparation. Our partners in Kyrgyzstan have been getting things ready and I, Roland, have now joined them in Bishkek for the last week’s push before the expedition starts.

Bishkek is located in one of the few parts of Kyrgyzstan that is not mountains and the weather here is hot hot hot and hazy. We will be heading up into the mountains in a few days to set up base camp and recce our expedition area, which will be much cooler – we may even have snow at base camp on some nights.

In the meantime, there is shopping to be done, kit to check and 4×4 vehicles to prepare. And meetings to be held too. Our base in Bishkek is the headquarters of NABU Kyrgyzstan, our main partner here, and this is where I have been spending my time when not shopping. I have been joined by Amadeus, a veteran of the Tien Shan expeditions (and former placement) and Taalai who is our new scientist directing the snow leopard research this year. I have also met Gulia, our base camp cook and Aman, our chief ranger, as well as Jirgal, Jengish, Ayan and Bek, the NABU rangers from the Grupa Barz (the NABU ranger group tasked with protecting snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan), who will be joining our groups on a rota system.

I am happy to say we are on target with preparations. Most of the shopping is now done and we have been through most of the kit – everything from tents, cooking stuff and fuel to a full mobile office and various gadgets for communication, navigation and safety. New this year are wooden huts for the toilet and shower (the tents used in previous years were not up to the job) and a set of GPS devices that give us digital mapping (for general navigation), a tool for research and a means of communication in an emergency in a region with no phone signal. We have also invested in a solar power system so that we can charge all the gadgetry properly. Tomorrow we will be joined by Malika, also a veteran of many a Tien Shan expedition and our expedition leader for the first group starting next Monday. But first, there is base camp to set up. I for one can’t wait to get up into those mountains.

We’ll send another diary entry once we are back in Bishkek. Happy packing, group 1!

From left: Tolkunbek (boss of NABU Kyrgyzstan), Ayan (NABU Grupa Barz ranger), Roland (expedition leader), Bek (NABU Grupa Barz ranger), Jengish (NABU Grupa Barz ranger), Jengish (NABU Grupa Barz ranger), Taalai (expedition scientist).
Amadeus and Aman food shopping
NABU truck that will get all the gear to the mountains
Container for gear storage and “flatpack” shower and toilet blocks
One thing the pandemic has taught is is meeting online more. Here Biosphere Expeditions executive director Matthias with the team in Bishkek

Continue reading “Tien Shan: One week to go”

Tien Shan: Get prepared!

Update from our snow leopard volunteer project to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan

As our advance team is getting ready in Bishkek or about to fly there, here are a few things for you expeditioners to prepare:

First, please remember to look at and study our terrestrial expedition methods guide. On that page, you will find a field guide (updated today), which you will need to have in the field with you, as well as other guides on plants and butterflies, as well as research methodology background papers and a video:

The most important thing you will need is the field guide. Please make sure that you have a digital or printed copy with you on the expedition.

We’ll be using new, fancy and complicated Garmin 700i and 66i GPS units. The more you can familiarise yourself with them ahead of the expedition, the easier you will find it to work with them in the mountains.

Our updated snow leopard expedition report with news of great successes of our community camera trapping group is now also online. Again, the more you know before you go, the better, but in a nutshell “The community camera trapping group in 2020 and 2021 demonstrated continued snow leopard presence through several snow leopard photo captures in several locations and found unconfirmed signs (scats, scrapes, tracks) at various locations. It is interesting to note that captures are increasing year-by-year, but there is insufficient data to tell whether this is a positive sign connected to snow leopard presence increasing in the study area.” With your help, we aim to find out.

So get ready, get excited and we will see you in the mountains in due course. This diary will now start in earnest and the next entry will be from Bishkek. See you there!

Continue reading “Tien Shan: Get prepared!”

Tien Shan: Starting off (with a new scientist)

Update from our snow leopard volunteer project to the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan

This first diary entry comes earlier than normal, but we wanted to share with you that we now have a new local scientist who will succeed Dr. Volodymy Tytar, who has been there with Biosphere Expeditions since the beginning, leading the science on expeditions to Ukraine, the Altai Republic and most recently the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Close to retirement, he will sadly not be able to come to his final Tien Shan snow leopard expedition this year as planned, because he wants to stay in Kyiv with his family and people. We salute his and his country’s bravery and thank him for all he has done for Biosphere Expeditions over the past 20 years or so. Thank you Volodya! He will train his successor, Taalai Mambetov, a Kyrgyz scientist, remotely and perhaps return next year for a lap of honour (we hope so anyway).

Outgoing scientist Dr. Volodymyr Tytar

Our incoming scientist is Taalai Mambetov. Taalai holds a Master’s degree from the Faculty of Biology, Kyrgyz National University. He began his scientific career as a junior researcher at the National Academy of Sciences. Since 2017, is as a teacher and field biologist at his alma mater. Taalai has articipated in various projects (ICBA, FFI, Kew Botanical Garden project etc.) mainly related to biodiversity. 

He says “I am delighted to be joining the Biosphere Expeditions team to protect the snow leopard and the places where it lives in my beloved Kyrgyzstan. I look forward to learning from Dr. Tytar and to working with the rest of the team, to get up to speed and continue the important work that has already been done. I also look forward to meeting the team of international citizen scientists who have chosen to support conservation, instead of going on a beach holiday somewhere. Thank you for this and for coming to the Tien Shan mountains instead. It will be interesting to talk to all of you about your motivations and to work with you in snow leopard conservation in Kyrgyzstan, my home country.”

Incoming scientist Taalai Mambetov

Together, we will now all crack on to get things ready for you. You won’t hear from us in this diary again until the expedition leaders are on their way as the advance party before the arrival of team 1. May our – and your – preparations and travel go well. See you in Bishkek!

Continue reading “Tien Shan: Starting off (with a new scientist)”

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

Five years on from the initial pledge from twelve nations at the “Snow Leopard Conservation and the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme” forum, Biosphere Expeditions continues to contribute to snow leopard protection in Kyrgyzstan. Their snow leopard conservation expedition to the Kyrgyz Ala Too mountain range, in close cooperation with NABU Kyrgyzstan, gives local people and international citizen scientists the chance to come and play an active and hands-on part in the conservation of this iconic species.

2017 saw the twelve countries reconvene in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, to update the status of their pledges of five years ago. Controversially, and not supported by Biosphere Expeditions, some experts called for the IUCN status of the snow leopard to be changed from Endangered to Vulnerable, even though only 2% of the snow leopard’s range has been studied scientifically.

Biosphere Expeditions’ study has yielded important results in a region that has not been studied properly since the 1980s. A report to the Kyrgyz government is being prepared by the expedition scientist Dr. Volodymyr Tytar for 2018. This report will recommend that Kyrgyz Ala Too be protected as a wildlife sanctuary, specifically to benefit the snow leopard.

The snow leopard, like many species, is threatened by poaching, retaliatory killings and habitat loss. It is estimated that fewer than 7,500 snow leopards remain in the wild. One goal formulated in Bishkek is the 20/20 pledge – to protect 20 snow leopard landscapes that have over 100 breeding adults by 2020, and to promote sustainable development in areas where the species lives.

“This is as big as it gets in terms of top-level conservation news”, says Dr. Tytar, “and it is a privilege to be part of the challenge, together with my colleagues in field science, local people and international citizen scientists, to preserve this iconic cat. But what we do goes far beyond a single cat species, beautiful as it is in its own right, because successful species conservation is all about creating positive impact well beyond the target species, namely for those people that share their daily lives and landscapes with the snow leopard. As specified in the Conservation Strategy for Snow Leopard in Russia, 2012-2022, much can be achieved in the socio-economic context of snow leopard conservation by ‘…developing collaborations with such internationally known organisations as Biosphere Expeditions…’ (p.81). And this is exactly what we have set out do with our research expedition here in Kyrgyzstan, which I am very proud of”, Dr. Tytar adds.

“Four of the key themes at the Bishkek conference as ways forward in snow leopard conservation were private conservation initiatives, local involvement, capacity-building and ecotourism”, says Dr. Tytar. “Our project ticks all those boxes beautifully in an expedition that does it all. Funded by the private donations of our citizen science participants, we involve local people and organisations and bring benefits to herders and other people on the ground. For us these are the key factors to ensure the future of the snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan and elswhere”, Dr. Tytar concludes.

Over the past four years, Dr. Tytar has been able to produce GIS models that transform collected data into visual representations that suggest locations within the study site that are suitable habitat for snow leopards. “Using these models we have been able to find sings of both snow leopard prey species and the snow leopard itself,” says Dr. Tytar. “With each new year’s data we are refining the model and gaining a better understanding of the snow leopard population within the Kyrgyz Ala Too Range.”

A new initiative to gather more data for more of the year was started this summer also. Community members from the surrounding area were trained in camera trapping techniques in order to extend the study season another six months. Essentially, these community members will continue to monitor camera traps within the Kyrgyz Ala Too before and after future expeditions. “This new incentive will be a great opportunity for local communities to learn more about their natural habitat and become more interested in many aspects of conservation,” suggested Jana Schweizer, a citizen scientist from the USA.

Key points of future Biosphere Expeditions snow leopard expedition to the mountains of Kyrgyzstan are:

1. Continue to evaluate and map the current status of snow leopard populations in the Kyrgyz Ala too range.

2. The fifth expedition will take place between June and August 2018 and will continue to work in close co-operation with the Bishkek office of German conservation organisation NABU (Naturschutzbund = nature conservation alliance) and its “Gruppa Bars”, an anti-poaching and snow leopard ranger group, as well as the newly created community monitoring group.

3. Local people, community monitors as well as student placements, as well as international citizen science volunteers from around the world will continue to join in the effort and, through their collective effort and funding, make it possible. Anyone can take part and details about the expedition and how to join are at www.biosphere-expeditions.org/tienshan.

A picture selection from the expedition is below

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