A rare sight: ASU researcher records endangered Russian snow leopard spotting

Mimi Kessler, a doctoral candidate in ASU's School of Life Sciences, visited the Russian Altai Mountains as a linguistic and cultural liaison for the Wild Altai expedition when she spotted two little ears on top of a ridge during a hike.

"Once I was certain of what I was seeing, I told the rest, 'You are not going to believe this, but there is a snow leopard on that ridge,'" Kessler says. "My companions grabbed their binoculars, took a look and started yelling with joy. The cat continued to look at us for a few moments, then slowly walked further up the ridge and out of sight."

The Russian snow leopard is listed as threatened due to illegal poaching and predator-prey conflicts. There are only a reported 90 leopards in Russia. The Altai Project, the expedition's organizer, aims to balance sustainable community development in the growing region and conservation of endangered species like the snow leopard.