Introduction

Gurvantes is a market town in the southwestern Gobi, home to hundreds of herder families who winter in their small homes with yards defined by reused tin and wood fencing. It's also a sum centre that encompasses both vital habitat for snow leopards and significant gold, copper and (especially) coal mining interests. Oh, and it's a stone's throw from the Chinese border (though the border is closed to foreign visitors). In other words, life is complicated in Gurvantes. It's here that local herders, led mostly by women, and Mongolian snow leopard conservationists are working hardest to protect the last of these mysterious cats who gather in and roam the Tost Mountains. Some earned protection in 2017 when the Tost Tosonbumba Nature Reserve was set aside by the central government in Ulaanbaatar.

Most international visitors work for multinational mining companies or come to study the cats in the autumn when the animals are often collared and tracked. There are no tourist facilities here.