SCOUTS - Be Prepared

Snow Leopards

\"SnowOn the 8th of October the Beavers and Cubs are walking around Marwell Zoo to raise money for Snow Leopards for the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). The Snow Leopard is an endagered species and you too can help make a difference.

Click here for more information or find out more about the Snow Leopard in this feature.

Key issues

Uncontrolled hunting is a threat to the snow leopard throughout its range. Although fully protected by national and international laws, uncontrolled hunting to protect livestock, and poaching for trophies and bones are helping to cause the snow leopard\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s rapid decline.

Traps set for other fur-bearing animals have been known to catch snow leopards. Once caught, the snow leopards are often killed by the hunters for their pelts.

Human development, such as agriculture, puts pressure on the environment. More domestic sheep and goats leave less pasture for their wild cousins, which in turn leaves less wild prey for the snow leopard.

Facts
  • Snow leopard IUCN status category: endangered (2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species)
  • The current estimated total snow leopard population is around 4,000 to 7,000 (Fading Footprints: The Killing and Trade of Snow Leopards, 2003).
  • The snow leopard is found in the mountainous areas of 12 countries stretching from the Central Asian Republics to Mongolia. (Russia, Turkmenistan, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, China (including Tibet) and Mongolia.)
  • The snow leopard\\\'s diet consists mainly of wild sheep, goats and hares, which have decreased in number due to human encroachment and hunting.
  • The snow leopard is hunted for its beautiful pelt. Once highly prized by the fashion world, it can still be seen for sale throughout China and Taiwan. There is huge value placed on their pelts and there has been an increase in poaching since the break-up of the USSR.
  • In addition, it is also shot by farmers, who see it as a threat to their livestock. Like all animals it hunts to survive and its wild prey is increasingly becoming replaced by domestic livestock.
  • The snow leopard presents no danger to people. It has keen eyesight and hearing and, when detecting the presence of humans, cautiously leaves their vicinity.
  • The number of snow leopards killed for their bones is increasing. These are used as a substitute for tiger bones in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

One of the most beautiful of the cats, snow leopards are also exceptional athletes capable of making huge leaps over ravines. They can also bring down prey almost three times their own size.

Subspecies

U.u.uncia, U.u.uncioides

Life span

Snow leopards can live for up to 21 years.

Statistics

Body length: 100-130cm, Tail length: 80-100cm, Shoulder height: 60cm, Weight: male: 45-55kg, female: 35-40kg.

Physical Description

Snow leopards have smoky grey fur with solid brown spots on the neck and lower limbs, and rosettes on the rest of the body. They have very thick fur, an exceptionally lo\"Snowng tail, relatively short legs and broad, furry paws that act as snow shoes.

Distribution

Snow leopards inhabit Central Asia from Afghanistan to Lake Baikal and eastern Tibet.

Habitat

They have been recorded living in mountain steppes and coniferous forest scrub at altitudes from 2000-6000m. In the summer, they frequent alpine meadows and rocky areas but in the winter they may descend to lower elevations following migrating prey.

Diet

Snow leopards are opportunistic predators and can take prey up to three times their own weight. The main part of their diet is made up of wild sheep and goats. They also feed on marmots, musk deer, pika, hare, birds and domestic livestock. Prey is either stalked or ambushed.

Behaviour

Snow leopards are crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) and are solitary, although males and females have been known to hunt together during the breeding season. They have a broad home range covering about 160 sq.km because of the lack of abundant prey. Snow leopards cannot roar which helps to separate them from the big cats.

Reproduction

Snow leopards mate between December and March and after 98-104 days of gestation, females give birth to one to five cubs (usually two or three). The cubs stay with their mothers for at least a year.

Conservation status

Snow leopards are listed as Endangered by the IUCN and are on CITES: Appendix I, mainly due to hunting for their fur. They are protected throughout most of their range but they are still hunted illegally. There are estimated to be only 4,500 to 7,500 snow leopards remaining in the wild.