Snow Leopard

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The number of specimens living in the wild was reduced to 1000 during the 1960s. Luckily, efforts to increase their numbers were successful. By 2005, however, there were only about 4500 to 7500 animals left in the areas between Pakistan and Mongolia because of poaching, and unfortunately this number has been dropping since then.

Snow leopards are feline predators native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia. In summer, they live in the mountains and on rocky plateaus at altitudes of 3500-6000 meters, but relocate to areas at around 2000 m for winter.

Snow leopards living in isolated groups are also threatened by the dangers of inbreeding, so WWF is working to help these individuals establish contact with each other and thus enable them to meet and mate other snow leopard group members.

They mostly live alone. After the mating period lasting from January to the middle of March and the 100 day long gestation period, mothers give birth to 2-3 (sometimes 7) cubs between the rocks or in caves, and raise them on their own. Fully grown animals are approximately 23 to 41 kg, their body is 1.2 to 1.5 m long and they have a meter long tail. Their short legs are covered with thick fur, which helps them to walk more easily in the snow. Their fur is black and white with ring and horseshoe shaped patterns on the body and the tail, and spots on the head, neck and legs, all of which act as camouflage on snowy terrain.

Their hunting range can be as large as 10-40 square kilometres, where they usually hunt at twilight or during the night. Their diet includes goats, sheep and cattle, as well as boars in the mountains, but they will attack any animal they can kill, even if it is three times their size. If necessary, however, they will also settle for rodents and birds. Indeed, they will sometimes even attack domesticated animals. They can follow the prey over long distances if required, then strike it down with a single blow. They can leap over distances up to 16 meters, which counts as unique among felines.

Snow leopards also play a significant role in culture. This predator is the national symbol of Tatarstan and Kazakhstan. Mountaineers who successfully reached each of the five 7,000 meter summits in the former Soviet Union were rewarded with a prize named after the snow leopard. The Kyrgyz Girls Scouts Association also chose this animal as their symbol. Himalayan peoples often call them 'ghost leopards' because their sightings are very rare in nature.

 

 

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