Snow Leopards are a relatively large feline native to the Central Asian mountain ranges. They are only found at altitude (usually between 3,350 – 6,700 m (10,990 – 20,000 ft), but do come as low as 1,200 m (3,900 ft) during winter. Their name comes from their appearance, which is somewhat similar to the leopard. Despite this similarity, the closest relative to the snow leopard is the subject of much debate. The total population of snow leopards in the wild is estimated to be just 4,000-6,500, which means that they are listed as an endangered species. Let’s find out what caused this decline in population.
Why are snow leopards endangered?
The number one cause of the decline in the number of snow leopards is the reduction in available prey. This occurs because humans take more land for raising domestic animals and also hunt the same species that the mountain lions eat. This has forced the snow leopards to prey on domestic animals and when they do this they are often killed by the farmers in an attempt protect their livestock. They are also under threat from deforestation and other destruction of their natural habitat. Another threat to the snow leopard is illegal hunting (poaching). A snow leopard is highly valued because of their sought after fur, as well as their bones, organs and skin, which is used in traditional medicine.
What is being done?
There are a number of conservations agencies working to protect these animals. The main focus of these groups is to educate the local people and research the habits of the snow leopards. Captive breeding programs are also ongoing and one way to add genetic diversity to the existing wild population.
Did you know?
Snow leopards are not aggressive towards humans and are easily scared away from domestic livestock.