Harnessing Drones for Snow Leopard Conservation


  • Rodney Jackson Snow Leopard Conservancy




Censusing snow leopard prey species like argali, ibex or blue sheep, is time-consuming, expensive, and challenging. We tested thermal-sensor-equipped drones to census ungulate populations in Mongolia’s Ikh Nart Nature Reserve.  In 2019 and 2022 we used drones to detect wild ibex and argali.  Here we report on 2022 findings: ~400 km along 5 fixed transects totaling forty-three missions, including several double count surveys. Drones detected 259 prey animals and 265 livestock; on average, 34% of all sightings were in areas obscured by topographic features from ground-based observers. Overall, tests reinforced the utility of drones for counting ungulates, along with highlighting important issues and future advances for supporting largely autonomous prey surveys. We recommend biologists build upon existing technology to attain an inexpensive, easy to use, and field ready set of equipment and procedures that can reliably improve or replace traditional walking or transect count methods for large prey species.


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How to Cite

Jackson, R. (2024). Harnessing Drones for Snow Leopard Conservation. Snow Leopard Reports, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.56510/slr.v3.17452



Research Notes