Asia

Endangered Animals of Asia

Introduction

The Snow Leopard is a endangered animal which lives in Central Asia. People used to hunt it for its beautiful fur. But because of hunting, this beautiful animal is being driven to extinction.

Description

Species: Mammal

Diet: Carnivore

Size: 4-5 Ft.

Weight: 60-120 Lbs.

Protection status: Endangered

Habitat

These beautiful animals live in the mountains of Central Asia. That includes: Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Karakorum, Mongolia, parts of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Adaptation

Snow leopards have a well-developed chest that helps them draw oxygen from the thin air of the high mountains. Snow leopards also have short forelimbs with sizeable paws, long hind limbs, and a thick tail nearly a meter long. These adaptations help them balance on the rocky precipices of their home. Adaptations for cold include: an enlarged nasal cavity that allows them to heat the cold air they are about to take into their lungs. The wide feet they have act like snow shoes.

Food Chain

The diet of the snow leopard varies across its range and with the time of year, and is dependent on prey availability. In the Himalayas it preys mostly on bharals (Himalayan blue sheep) but in other mountain ranges such as the Karakoram, Tian Shan, and Altai, its main prey consists of Siberian ibex and argali, a type of wild sheep, although this has become rarer in some parts of the snow leopard's range. Other large animals eaten include various types of wild goats and sheep (such as markhors and urials), other goat-like animals such as Himalayan tahr and gorals, and deer, boars, and langur monkeys. Smaller prey consists of marmots, woolly hares, pikas, various rodents, and birds such as the snow cock and chukar.

Reasons for Endangerment

There are three main reasons that snow leopards are in trouble. The first reason is that the bones, skin and organs of large cats are valuable in traditional Asian medicine. Tigers are the prefered species for this purpose, but tigers are so rare that it is almost impossible to find one in the wild so snow leopards are substituted for tigers. When you consider that the people who live near snow leopards often earn less than 300 dollars per year and that a poacher can get perhaps $200 for a dead snow leopard and, it isn’t hard to understand why snow leopards are at risk.

Humans are a second reason that snow leopards are endangered. Humans have pushed ever further with their livestock into the snow leopard’s habitat. Overgrazing damages the fragile mountain grasslands, leaving less food for the wild sheep and goats that are the snow leopard’s main prey. With less food for the wild sheep and goats, there become fewer of these animals for the snow leopard. This leaves the snow leopard with little choice but to prey on the domestic livestock for their own survival. An unhappy farmer, arriving at his goat pen one morning to find that all of his goats have been killed by a snow leopard, might retaliate by killing the snow leopard if he can find it.


Baby snow leopard playing with a pumpkin at the zoo!

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