The elusive snow leopard Panthera unica is a rare and little studied species in China. Over 1 March–15 May 2006 we conducted a survey for the snow leopard in the Gouli Region, East Burhanbuda Mountain, Kunlun Mountains, Qinghai Province, China, in an area of c. 300 km2 at altitudes of 4,000–4,700 m. We surveyed 29 linear transects with a total length of c. 440 km, and located a total of 72 traces (pug marks, scrapes and urine marks) of snow leopard along four of the transects. We obtained eight photographs of snow leopard from four of six camera traps. We also recorded 1,369 blue sheep, 156 Tibetan gazelles, 47 argali, 37 red deer and one male white-lipped deer. We evaluated human attitudes towards snow leopard by interviewing the heads of 27 of the 30 Tibetan households living in the study area. These local people did not consider that snow leopard is the main predator of their livestock, and thus there is little retaliatory killing. Prospects for the conservation of snow leopard in this area therefore appear to be good. We analysed the potential threats to the species and propose the establishment of a protected area for managing snow leopard and the fragile alpine ecosystem of this region.