About the Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard, often called the ‘Guardian of the Mountains’ is a member of the majestic big cat species. Its short fore limbs, long hind limbs and a tail as long as its body makes these animals expert leapers who can jump as far as 50 feet. Their thick grey fur protects them from extreme cold while also helping them blend with their surroundings. Its rugged habitat and camouflage make it one of the rarest big cats to spot in the wild.

Snow Leopards are found in the high-altitude mountainous regions of 12 Central Asian countries. While an exact estimate of their population is unknown, it is believed that about 4000-6000 of these cats exist in the wild globally.

In India, this population is estimated to be between 400-600 individuals distributed across the union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh and the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Snow leopards live in high altitudes ranging from 3,000-4,500 meters, and prey upon species such as the Himalayan Blue Sheep, Ibex and Tahr.

Challenges facing Snow Leopard

Snow leopards are specialized hunters of the high altitudes where not many species can survive. By keeping the population of herbivores in check, they help in maintaining the balance of these fragile ecosystems. Despite living in remote areas, snow leopards today face a variety of threats.

Climate change and global warming :

The high-Himalayan ecosystem is faced with range of complex environmental issues that are affecting its habitat. Melting of glaciers is shrinking its habitat and also reducing availability of wild prey.

Human-wildlife conflict :

With rise in livestock populations, wild herbivores face a competition for grazing grounds, leading to a decline in their population. This often forces the snow leopard to prey on domestic livestock that often leads to human-wildlife conflict.

Poaching and Illegal Trade in Wildlife :

Because snow leopards are amongst the rarest of animals, they are highly sought after by poachers. Illegal trade of these animals for their fur, bones and other body parts further compounds the threat on the species.

Unsustainable Infrastructure development :

As many regions inhabited by the snow leopard are undergoing rapid economic growth, unsustainable infrastructure development is leading to a loss of their habitat.

Challenges facing Snow Leopard

Snow leopards are guardians of fragile high-altitude regions that are home to numerous glaciers and water bodies and are, therefore, also called the water towers of Asia. These areas provide water and other important ecosystem services to millions of people downstream.

The presence of Snow Leopards acts a crucial indicator to understand the health of these ecosystems. By conserving the snow leopard, we can ensure the conservation of these regions and provide sustained benefits to people.

The need for a landscape-based conservation approach

Snow leopard conservation requires addressing a diverse range of problems including climate change, global warming, community livelihoods, human-wildlife conflict and illegal trade in wildlife.
A landscape-based approach can look at all these issues in an integrated manner and address them through a participatory approach which includes governments, communities and development organizations. It also puts an emphasis on combining modern science with traditional knowledge to deliver sustained benefits.

The need for a landscape-based conservation approach

Snow leopard conservation requires addressing a diverse range of problems including climate change, global warming, community livelihoods, human-wildlife conflict and illegal trade in wildlife.
A landscape-based approach can look at all these issues in an integrated manner and address them through a participatory approach which includes governments, communities and development organizations. It also puts an emphasis on combining modern science with traditional knowledge to deliver sustained benefits.