As wildlife becomes more isolated in human-dominated and rapidly changing environments, species conservation requires investment in landscape connectivity. Identifying stepping stones (discrete areas of suitable habitat that facilitate the movement of dispersing individuals) can help meet connectivity goals. We report the occurrence of the snow leopard Panthera uncia in Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia, over 250 km from the nearest known population, one of the easternmost records for the species. Ikh Nart Nature Reserve lies within a region considered highly resistant to movement but harbours high densities of argali sheep Ovis ammon and Siberian ibexes Capra sibirica, both important prey items for snow leopards. This occurrence reveals a new distribution record for the species, the capacity of the species to move across low-quality environments, the value of investment in community conservation and collaborative park management, and the role of remote protected areas such as Ikh Nart Nature Reserve as stepping stones for facilitating population expansion and broader connectivity to other potentially suitable but unoccupied areas.
Garroutte, Erica, A New Snow Leopard Record Reflects the Value of Remote Protected Areas for Connectivity (2023). Oryx.