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The endangered Snow Leopard, called 'mountain ghosts' by locals, are known for their elusive nature. Their range extends over 12 countries and 2 million square kilometers in Asia. According to the non-profit organization Panthera, researchers believe there may be as many as 4,500 - 10,000 adults in the wild. Their excellently camouflaged coat and shy nature makes population estimates and surveys challenging. In recent years new research modeling techniques have indicated that populations may be higher than previously thought.

Sebastian Kennerknecht had a chance to offer his camera trap expertise to a recent Panthera expedition to the Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve in the Tian Shen Mountains of eastern Kyrgyzstan. After countless days in the forbidding habitat without spotting a single leopard, Sebastian came to appreciate the mountain ghost's stealth and camouflage. The experience was all too familiar. On his previous trip, the area's cats successfully avoided all contact with his cameras. His persistence was rewarded when the team caught and collared M1, the first male in their study, and a second cat, M2, three weeks later.

The snow leopard project is led by principal biologist Shannon Kachel. He, along with his team, are collaring snow leopards while also examining snow leopard kill sites, and conducting ungulate surveys. This information will be used to help make smart conservation decisions for the future of these beautiful cats.
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild female, wet after having crossed river, in mountain valley, Uchkul River, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564918 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild female, wet after having crossed river, in mountain valley, Uchkul River, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, measuring tail during collaring of male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564976 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, measuring tail during collaring of male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, volunteer, David Cooper, biologist, Rahim Kulenbek, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, collaring male snow leopard, Sarych...
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00564972 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, volunteer, David Cooper, biologist, Rahim Kulenbek, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, collaring male snow leopard, Sarych...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, and volunteer, David Cooper, collaring male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountai...
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00564973 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, and volunteer, David Cooper, collaring male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountai...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, volunteer, David Cooper, biologist, Rahim Kulenbek, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, collaring male snow leopard, Sarych...
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00564974 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, volunteer, David Cooper, biologist, Rahim Kulenbek, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, collaring male snow leopard, Sarych...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, David Cooper, stimulating circulation of paw during collaring of male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzs...
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00564975 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, David Cooper, stimulating circulation of paw during collaring of male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzs...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, drawing blood during collaring of male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, e...
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00564977 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, drawing blood during collaring of male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, e...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, and veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, measuring canine tooth of male during collaring, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, e...
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00564978 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, and veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, measuring canine tooth of male during collaring, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, e...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild biologist, Shannon Kachel, and ranger, Ulan Abulgaziev, measuring metatarsal pad width of male during collaring, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mou...
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00564917 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild biologist, Shannon Kachel, and ranger, Ulan Abulgaziev, measuring metatarsal pad width of male during collaring, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mou...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male during collaring with ranger, Ulan Abulgaziev, massaging paw to stimulate circulation, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgy...
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00564916 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male during collaring with ranger, Ulan Abulgaziev, massaging paw to stimulate circulation, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgy...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, and veterinarians, John Ochsenreiter and Ric Berlinski, collaring wild male at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountain...
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00564946 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, and veterinarians, John Ochsenreiter and Ric Berlinski, collaring wild male at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountain...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, veterinarians, Ric Berlinski and Mairam Tolukaeva, collaring wild male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains...
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00564947 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, veterinarians, Ric Berlinski and Mairam Tolukaeva, collaring wild male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist Shannon Kachel, collaring wild male snow leopard at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564950 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist Shannon Kachel, collaring wild male snow leopard at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) veterinarians, Ric Berlinski and John Ochsenreiter, with ranger, Zoldoshbek Bektemirov, checking vitals during collaring of wild male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict...
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00564948 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) veterinarians, Ric Berlinski and John Ochsenreiter, with ranger, Zoldoshbek Bektemirov, checking vitals during collaring of wild male snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, keeping wild male warm during collaring, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564949 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, keeping wild male warm during collaring, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male with collar, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564968 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male with collar, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male with collar, camouflaged in rocky ravine, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564969 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male with collar, camouflaged in rocky ravine, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male with collar, camouflaged in rocky ravine, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564971 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male with collar, camouflaged in rocky ravine, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male with collar, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564970 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male with collar, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild sub-adult leaping, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564956 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild sub-adult leaping, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild sub-adult approaching scent-marking cliff, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564955 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild sub-adult approaching scent-marking cliff, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564951 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564952 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia), wild male at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564901 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia), wild male at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia)  wild male at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564902 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male at night, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Khalil Karimov, using telemetry to check if any snare traps used for collaring were triggered during the night, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzst...
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00558529 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Khalil Karimov, using telemetry to check if any snare traps used for collaring were triggered during the night, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzst...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, David Cooper, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564933 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, David Cooper, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, using telemetry to check if any snare traps used for collaring were triggered, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00558530 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, using telemetry to check if any snare traps used for collaring were triggered, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564896 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, setting snare trap used for catching and collaring snow leopards, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzsta...
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00564894 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, setting snare trap used for catching and collaring snow leopards, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzsta...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) veterinarian, John Ochsenreiter, holding satellite tracking collar, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00558523 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) veterinarian, John Ochsenreiter, holding satellite tracking collar, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) satellite tracking collar, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00558524 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) satellite tracking collar, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, inspecting snow leopard spray on scent-marking cliff, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
00564954
00564954 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, inspecting snow leopard spray on scent-marking cliff, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) veterinarian, John Ochsenreiter, holding anesthesia dart used during collaring process, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00558522 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) veterinarian, John Ochsenreiter, holding anesthesia dart used during collaring process, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564895 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male peering over snow during snowfall before collaring, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564915 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) wild male peering over snow during snowfall before collaring, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564907 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, looking at logged locations of collared female, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564979 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, looking at logged locations of collared female, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, David Cooper, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564936 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, David Cooper, walking in mountains, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, taking notes on Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica) male killed by snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern...
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00564962 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, taking notes on Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica) male killed by snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern...© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, collecting scat, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564963 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, collecting scat, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, using telemetry to locate collared female, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564965 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, using telemetry to locate collared female, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, using telemetry to locate collared female, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564964 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, using telemetry to locate collared female, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, David Cooper, taking notes on Argali (Ovis ammon) male killed by snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564966 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, David Cooper, taking notes on Argali (Ovis ammon) male killed by snow leopard, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) female with collar in mountains next to scent-marking rock, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan
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00564967 Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) female with collar in mountains next to scent-marking rock, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan© Sebastian Kennerknecht
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