Searching for "The Ghost of the mountains"

Scientists – supported by the German NGO NABU and its local partner organizations – on their adventurous search for the elusive snow leopards in Tajikistan’s wild mountain ranges

A team of scientists and hunters is trying to proof the existence of snow leopards with camera traps
Their search starts in the barren Serafschan river valley close to the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. Only through hard work and skillfull built irrigation canals people are able to grow some crops here.
Each morning the scientists drive up from the main valley into one of the numerous side valleys. Traveling the rough roads is slow and exhausting...
...and sometimes those rough roads vanish completely.
The scientists sometimes have to hike more than 20 kilometers and climb up to 2000 meters in altitude to reach the camera traps which have been deposited a couple of months earlier
The conservationists on an exposed trail...
...which leads them higher and higher...
...into the snow leopard's habitat
Old Russian maps and GPS devices are used to navigate
On their way the conservationists often stop to search the hillsides for snow leopards or prey animals
Whenever some prey animal is spotted the conservationists write down its species and location
Whenever possible the conservationists talk to herders and villagers
Tajik woman and her son... in a small settlement in the mountains
One of the conservationists checks a camera trap at 4000 meters in altitude...
...before heading down to the valley again
River crossing through freezingly cold glacial water
Bandaged feet as a result of all the stresses and strains
On the way to the next camera trap
Skull and horns of an alpine ibex which is a popular prey animal for snow leopards are being examined in the Parcham Conservancy
Due to the rough and narrow trails hay and crops from the fields are mostly transported by donkey
Local man at the roadside
Especially the bridges are in hair-rising conditions sometimes
A flock of sheep is blocking the road
Irina Muschik, head of the NABU snow leopard division, is checking the captured pictures. Besides a whole bunch of lynx, wolves and ungulates she also discovers several snow leopards on the camera traps.
A snow leopard captured with one of the camera traps © NABU
A wolf captured with one of the camera traps © NABU
A lynx captured with one of the camera traps © NABU