Name – Snow Leopard
Scientific Name – Panthera uncia
Status – Endangered
In India also known as – Barfani tendua, Him chita
Population – There are as few as 3,500 to 7,000 snow leopards living in the wild today; the exact number is unknown as they are extremely elusive and hard to survey.
Range – Secretive and sparsely distributed across 12 countries from southern Siberia to the Tibetan Plateau, including India.
Problems of the Modern World
Snow leopards are highly vulnerable to poaching for their hides and bones which are prized on the black market.
Snow leopard hides and bones are frequently confiscated in illegal shipments of wildlife parts bound for the markets of China. In a single incident in 2005, thirteen snow leopard hides were seized at a Mongolia-China border crossing. Over 60 snow leopard skins were confiscated in Chinese markets between 2003-2008. China shares a border with 10 of the 11 other snow leopard range countries.
2. Conflict with Humans
Across the snow leopard range, the pastoral way of living is still a major way of subsistence and conflict due to attack on livestock by the animal is a rising problem resulting in retaliatory killing of the leopard.
3. Trophy hunting of Prey species
Trophy hunting of wild mountain sheep and goats has reduced the snow leopard’s natural food resources, forcing snow leopard to survive on livestock. Scientific surveys in 2009 yielded a low estimate of just 9,100 argali remaining in Mongolia, down from 13,000 in 2001 and 60,000 in 1985.
4. Armed Conflict
Armed conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India has taken an unknown toll on snow leopards and other rare species. Snow leopard hides are often found in the markets of Kabul, Peshawar, and other towns in and near central Asian war zones and may be an income source for insurgencies.
What can be done to save them
Recent studies using GPS-satellite collars have shown that snow leopards require very large areas to meet their basic needs. Hence, few existing protected areas would support only a few breeding pair of the cats.
1. Ending Human-animal conflict
Managing human-snow leopard conflicts is one of the major challenges which if understood and solved can ensure peaceful existence of humans as well as the leopard. For example, rewarding herders that do not kill leopards can encourage others to stop retaliatory killings.
2. Better conservation plans
Stronger national conservation policies, greater awareness, and cooperation of public, organisations, government can help build the community that protects these beautiful creatures.
3. Safeguarding Livestock
Attack on livestock can be avoided by planning better animal husbandry, build predator-proof corrals ,restoration of wild prey stocks, and offsetting the economic losses due to leopard attacks.
4. Alternative livelihood and awareness
Encouraging ecotourism and home-stays to increase income and local appreciation of the big cats. This has been especially successful in Ladakh, India and has significant potential for large parts of snow leopard range.
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