Discovering the Altai Region: A Conversation with Jennifer Castner, ’93, Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jennifer Castner, ’93, Director of The Altai Project, and Mikhail Paltsyn, Program Coordinator for WWF-Altai-Sayan, introduced us to a remote area of Russia and the beautiful snow leopards living there. Jennifer and Mikhail are part of a collaborative effort to study and protect the northernmost population of snow leopards in the world. Although there are an estimated 4500 snow leopards worldwide, there are only about 100 of these elusive and beautiful cats in Russia. Poaching (both subsistence and commercial) is the single biggest threat to snow leopards, closely followed by habitat loss. Russian plans to build an international gas pipeline and develop copper and cobalt deposits in the heart of snow leopard country also loom on the near horizon.

The Altai Project’s mission is to protect the natural and cultural heritage of Altai—a uniquely diverse, mountainous region of southern Siberia. The goals of The Altai Project are nature conservation, promoting renewable energy and sustainable design, and supporting indigenous organizations in their efforts to restore and protect their traditional lands and lifeways. Its past successes include leadership of an international campaign to stop the Altai gas pipeline project, over a decade of grant-making for Altai grassroots conservation, reduced poaching and strengthened protected areas, and timely strategic support that has resulted in Altai being on the leading edge of renewable energy development and the green building movement in Russia. The Altai Project is a project of Earth Island Institute, a network consisting of more than 50 projects worldwide. Visit the Project’s website for more information and many fascinating photographs: