The Snow Leopard The snow leopard (Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia) is a moderately large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia. Classically, two subspecies have been attributed but genetic differences between the two have not been settled. The snow leopard remains on the endangered species list classified as C1.
Description Snow leopards are slightly smaller than the other big cats but, like them, exhibit a range of sizes, generally weighing between 27 and 55 kg, with an occasional large male reaching 75 kg and small female under 25 kg. They have a relatively short body, measuring in length from the head to the base of the tail 75 to 130 cm. However, the tail is quite long, at 80 to 100 cm. They are stocky and short-legged big cats, standing about 60 cm at the shoulder. Snow leopards have long thick fur, and their base colour varies from smoky grey to yellowish tan, with whitish under parts.
Habitat Snow leopards prefer steep, rugged terrains with rocky outcrops and ravines. This type of habitat provides good cover and clear view to help them sneak up on their prey. They are found at high elevations of 3000-5000 meters and even higher in the Himalayas. The snowy peaks act as a camouflage for the animal.
Population and Distribution Population: Around 4,080–6,590 Distribution: The strikingly beautiful snow leopard remains one of the most mysterious cats in the world. This roving, high altitude cat is rarely sighted by local people or scientists. Snow leopards live in the mountain regions of central Asia. In India their geographical cover encompasses a large part of the Western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand with a sizable population in Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh in Eastern Himalaya.
Biology and Behavior Hunting and diet Snow leopards are carnivores and actively hunt their prey. Like many cats, they are also opportunistic feeders, eating whatever meat they can find, including carrion and domestic livestock. Life cycle The cubs are blind and helpless at birth, although already with a thick coat of fur, and weigh from 320 to 567 grams. The eyes open at around seven days, and the cubs can walk at five weeks and are fully weaned by 10 weeks. The cubs leave the den at around two to four months of age, but remain with their mother until they become independent after around 18–22 months. Snow leopards become sexually mature at two to three years, and normally live for 15–18 years; although in captivity they can live for up to 21 years.
Facts on Snow Leopards • The Snow Leopard has no relation with the leopard - it is closer to a Cheetah. • The colours of the eyes of the Snow Leopard are pale green or grey. • The Snow Leopard is incapable of roaring. • The long tail helps them to maintain their balance on rocky or slippery terrain. • The Snow Leopard is able to jump as far as 50 feet (15 meters). • Snow leopards are found in altitudes as high as 3500 meters above sea level. In summer, the snow leopard may climb higher to cooler altitudes of as high as 5000 meters above sea level! • The fur on the belly of the snow leopard is about 5 inches thick!
Threats to the Snow Leopard Human conflict is a key factor affecting the survival of the snow leopard. Snow leopards are often killed by local farmers because they prey on livestock such as sheep, goats, horses, and yak calves. In some areas domestic animals can make up to 58% of the snow leopard's diet. Much of the population decline is also attributed to hunting for the much coveted fur and for bones which are used in Chinese medicines.
Ways to protect the Snow Leopard • Support snow leopard conservation organizations. If you don't have money for donations, ask if you can help in other ways by contributing your time or holding a fundraiser. • Reduce consumption of paper, wood products and palm oil that result from rainforest destruction in Southeast Asia. Recycle paper and examine labels of food products and cosmetics to look for "palm oil" and "palm kernel". If a product does not use "certified palm oil" there is a possibility that its production has come at the expense of the rainforest. Similarly when buying a wood product, check to see whether it is "FSC-certified". • Refuse to buy any item made from snow leopards. Leopard skins can sell for thousands of dollars, creating an incentive for poachers to kill these big cats. Reducing the demand for snow leopards' skins keeps more of them alive.
Encourage others not to buy traditional Chinese medicines that include tiger or snow leopard bones or organs. With tougher restrictions on killing tigers, some Chinese medicine makers have started using snow leopard parts instead, believing that they bring special healing powers. Fewer snow leopards would be killed if such practices were discouraged. • Donate money to organizations trying to save snow leopards. You can "adopt" a snow leopard or simply donate any amount you wish. Donations often go toward educating local people about how to avoid conflicts with snow leopards and researching these elusive creatures.
Made by: Jivitesh Yadav and Likali Yepthomi