Snow Leopard

By: Jessica Cobb

Description

The Snow Leopard has a light gray colored base and yellow tinted fur with the typical spots of a any other leopard. Perfectly blending in to the rocky terrain, the fur can grow up to 12cm long. The long tick fur has helped the leopard adapt in the cold habitat. Snow leopards are extremely fast and dependent on their paws and tails. Leopards paws distribute their weight and make it easy to walk on the snow and also have hair on the bottom for a good grip on the rocky downward slopes. Their tails keep them balanced, keep them warm, and act as a nifty pillow while they sleep. The big cats range from sixty to one hundred twenty pounds and up to four feet in length, with about a forty inch tail. Leopards have enlarged nasal cavity that warms the cold air as it is breathed in, also helping to keep them warm. Their ears have also adapted perfectly for the cold weather, small and round minimizing heat loss. The leopards body is perfectly sculpted to be able to climb in its habitat with steep height from 200 to 6000 meters, shorter front legs than back allows for its awesome jumping ability, fifty feet horizontally and twenty feet vertically.

Living Enviroment

The snow leopard lives in Central Asia preferring the mountain ranges. Due to the habitat location coniferous trees cover the forests. In the winter they travel to lower grounds to find prey. Sometimes the prey weighs up to three times their weight, the leopard regularly eats arkhar, sheep, goats, markhor, deer, marmonts and other small rodents. Most active during the dark hours these cats kill an average of one large animal twice a month. Leopards are not strict carnivores, they also eat twigs, grass, and other vegetation.

Threats

The snow leopard is endangered because of population decrease by over grazing by domestic livestock, poaching, and defense of livestock. Snow leopards hunt to eat and otherwise are the least aggressive of all big cats, with no reported attack of humans; therefore, easily pushed away from lives stock and abandoned their prey when threatened. Snow leopards fur was once sought after as a fashion aspect. About 1,000 pelts were traded in the 1920's. The bones of leopards were once high priority in asian medicine tradition. Loss of habitat effects the snow leopards, as it does to every other animal with humans urbanizing all of the land. With help from all of the organizations, snow leopards population has been brought up from almost extinct, 1,000 in the 1960's, to endangered with a total of 6,000 snow leopards total.

Efforts

In 1972, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) placed Snow Leopards on the endangered species. The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) made trafficking of live snow leopards and their fur or body parts illegal in 1975. After forty years the snow leopards population rates are still decreasing despite sixteen protected parks and areas.

Importance

A species with a large role in its environment effects the health of its habitat as a whole. Being one of the top predators in the high mountain’s food web, the snow leopard keeps the ecosystem balanced by eating the animals that would quickly over populate Central Asia. If there are too many herbivores in the area, they will overgraze vegetation. Just like the wolves in Yellow Stone Park, if Snow Leopards disappear from the area, the ecosystem will fall apart. Although getting rid of hunting snow leopards will negatively effect the economy, the effect on the environment will be much more dramatic after they are gone.

Wild Snow Leopard Cubs

Conservation Organizations

  • Conservation International
  • Flora and Fauna International (FFI)
  • IUCN Cat Specialist Group
  • Felidae Conservation Fund
  • International Snow Leopard Trust (ISLT)
  • NABU (German Language Site)
  • Pacific Environment
  • Plateau Perspectives
  • Sacred Earth Network (SEN)
  • Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC)
  • The Mountain Institute
  • The Nature Conservancy - Yunnan, China Project
  • The World Conservation Union (IUCN)
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
  • Wildlife Watch Group
  • Woodland Park Zoo
  • World Wildlife Fund-UK

Organization's Help

All of the organizations and groups have websites and ways to raise money. Their overall goal is to make sure there is no hidden poaching of the snow leopards. The organizations money goes to help that along with research.

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