The Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard


The Snow Leopard

An elusive denizen of the mountains of Central and South Asia, the snow leopard (panthera uncia) inhabits parts of 12 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It is estimated that between 3,920 and 6,500 snow leopards remain in the wild.




The snow leopard is listed as globally Endangered on the IUCN Red List and the species is listed (as Uncia uncia) on Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora), which prohibits international trade in the animal and its parts and products except under exceptional, non-commercial circumstances. All snow leopard range countries are parties to CITES with Tajikistan in the process of joining.

For more on the snow leopard, it’s behavior and habitat, please visit the GSLEP main website. 




The Threats

While the snow leopard is a top predator in its mountain ecosystem, human activities pose serious threats to these cats and their habitat.

Once largely protected by the very inaccessibility of its habitat and the elusiveness of its behavior, snow leopards today face mounting threats that have put the species under acute pressure.

Growing human populations and poorly planned development—mines, roads, and dams—are pushing into snow leopard habitat. And despite the snow leopard’s cultural relevance, when the cat clashes with humans and their livestock, it goes from paragon to pest in herders’ perceptions. Retaliation incidents now account for more than half of all known cases of snow leopard killings.

Moreover, the cat’s stunning pelt and its bones are coveted by some for fashion, décor and assumed medicinal properties. So, in addition to the snow leopards that are killed in retaliation for livestock losses, several cats also die each year because of the illegal trade in skins and other products.

For more on the threats this cat faces, please visit the GSLEP main website





Conservation Principles

It is important to ensure equitable participation of local communities in snow leopard conservation planning and management. This should include the creation of culturally and socially responsible economic and other incentives that ensure conserving snow leopards also has a positive impact on communities.

Community-based, science-led conservation efforts are critical. Therefore, it is important that policies and laws provide a state-sanctioned, preferably legal basis for the involvement of local communities in active conservation efforts.

A landscape-level approach implies that snow leopard conservation must be integrated into the larger national development agendas for snow leopard habitats. It also requires that conservation goals are defined and that conservation efforts are also made on land outside the protected area network. The success of such an effort requires multi-sectoral cooperation and effective collaboration between various governmental departments and decision-making bodies.

For more on best practices in snow leopard conservation, please visit the GSLEP main website.


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