Snow Leopards, Elegant Asian Mountain Cats
Tracing the tracks of Snow Leopards in the alpine mountains.
Gorgeous and hushed as snowfall, the Snow Leopard is known all over the globe for its beauty and intangible behavior. The white-gray coat with black spots combines perfectly with the rocky mountains of Central and South Asia.
These wild cats love this kind of natural habitat. It offers them good cover to stay out of sight while hunting. Moreover, they are highly adapted to the harsh and arid climate of the mountains.
Some amazing facts about Snow Leopards:
- Like most wild cats, this magnificent mountain cat hunts at night. The most common creatures killed by these cats are wild goats, deer, pikas, markhor, game birds, rodents and hares.
- The Snow Leopard is scientifically dubbed as Uncia uncia.
- They are found at elevations as high as 9800 feet above sea level.
- These are the most mystical among wild cats. They have a stunning coat with black rosettes that helps them in disguise.
- These cats weigh from 30-55 kg, and the length of the tail measures from 80-135cm.
- They are considered excellent jumpers and bear a resemblance to leopards.
- Their paws are large and covered with fur, which protects them from getting injuries.
- The gestation period of a female is about 90 to 110 days.
- They can live up to 18 years, though some have been known to live up to 21 years.
Why Snow Leopards are endangered
This wild cat’s numbers are gradually declining, with its population in the wild estimated at around 6000. According to the International Union for the conservation of Nature and Natural resources they are listed as an endangered species.
There are a number of reasons why they are in danger, but humans are the biggest threat to Snow Leopards. They hunt them for fur, pelt and bones. Many people are found wearing coats and hats made from leopard skin, while on the other hand, the Chinese use their bones in medicines. Not only this, humans also cause immense damage to their habitats and food sources.
When there is no or limited prey left in the wild, they are forced to venture out of their designated habit into human settlements where they start killing and eating the farm animals of villagers, such as goats and sheep. In response the local people kill these straying cats to save their stock.
Cites, another respected organization, puts a lot of effort into discovering creatures that could be in trouble. It protects the endangered species and forbids trade of animal species or their body parts.
Saving them from extinction
The Snow Leopard was first listed as an endangered species in the year 1972 and since then its population has been on the decline. The very old and respected Snow Leopard Trust works exclusively to save the endangered cat and its home. Right now the trust focuses its attempts in countries like Kyrgyzstan, India, Pakistan, China and Mongolia. It raises money through fundraising events, donations and by selling products online, and is maintained by the other organizations.
There are many organizations working together to make important contributions to the conservation of the endangered Snow Leopard. Conservation groups in many countries where these wild cats survive are working with the farmers to help improve the situation and minimize the problem of human-snow leopard conflicts. The herders and farmers have been taught how to protect their livestock areas against these creatures.
Where Snow Leopards Live
One can witness these top predators in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Bhutan. The likelihood of encountering one of these wild cats seems like a fancy dream. Spotting it in its high, overwhelming habitat will be a real reward for anyone.
On a tour to India, don’t miss out on visiting the famous Hemis National Park where snow leopards are found. Some of other renowned national parks are Khunjerab National park, Pakistan; Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal; Katun Nature Reserve, Russia and Sarychat- Ertah State Nature Reserve, Kyrgyzstan.
The existence of this elusive animal is significant as it signifies the health of the surroundings and the preservation of the snow leopard cannot be successful without the help and support of the local people. Make an effort to protect the wild cat, “Uncia uncia“, and its habitat. They need your love!
Contributing author Tanmay Sharma is a wildlife admirer and very passionate about wildlife tourism.