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Snow Leopard Discovery In Tajikistan Shows Need For Conservation (PHOTOS)

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A recent biodiversity survey in a remote corner of Tajikistan has yielded surprising results.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) recently teamed up with local and international scientists to conduct a survey of life in the Zorkul nature reserve, near the Afghan border. FFI's team planted camera traps which captured images of five different snow leopards in one valley, according to a press release.

Wired UK reports that the FFI team, with the help of Panthera, planted 11 cameras around a 5.8 square mile (15 square kilometer) area in August 2011.

The survey's results have prompted a quick response. FFI's Dr. Alex Diment told Wired UK that FFI is training local rangers in the nature reserve "on how to work in the harsh field conditions, and how to combat illegal poaching and other threats."

Their actions are undoubtedly warranted. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists snow leopards (Panthera uncia) as endangered.

FFI reports that habitat loss and poaching have caused at least a 20 percent decline in snow leopard populations in the past 16 years.

Scientific American writes that scientists in Australia have created "embryonic stem-like cells from the tissue of an endangered adult snow leopard." The scientists' (theoretical) goal is to help save endangered big cat species by reproducing them in labs.

Earlier this month, a team from the Wildlife Conservation Society photographed mother and cub snow leopards together in Afghanistan.

Below, check out images of the snow leopards in Tajikistan and photos of several other species identified by FFI's biodiversity survey.

Images and captions courtesy of Fauna & Flora International.

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