leopard snow e LRMK Nature Design takes a closer look at the Snow Leopard.  Why is it endangered and what are it’s characteristics?

I am in awe of the snow leopard.  It is such a magnificent creature.  Beautiful and sleek and elusive.  That is why I speak of it today.

The snow leopard lives in the mountains of Central Asia.  It is well adapted to the cold and harsh climate but now is in danger due to man’s activities (www.snowleopard.org, September 8, 2016).  All of the information in this blog today is found at this website.

The snow leopard tends to be solitary and elusive.  It is active at dawn and at dusk and has a home range of up to 1,000 square kilometer.  The mother raises her cubs alone for 18 months.  It lives in the dry and barren mountain areas.  It is not aggressive toward humans.  The Snow Leopard is carnivorous, eating ibex (wild goat), argali (wild sheep) and blue sheep.

The habitat of the Snow Leopard spans 12 counties:  Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The area in China represents 60% of it’s habitat. In the Himalayas the Snow Leopard is found between 3,000 and 5,400 m above sea level.  In Russia they have been found as low as 1,000 m.  The climate is typically cold and dry with only dry grasses and low shrubs that can survive.  The Snow Leopard prefers ravines, rocky outcrops and cliffs.  This habitat gives them good cover and a clear view to prey. Males tend to have exclusive home ranges that overlap with females.  Where prey is abundant, home ranges are usually 30-65 km2 however with little prey, ranges have been known to be as large as 1,000 km2.  Snow Leopards are nomadic and constantly on the move in their range, marking their territory. However they are also known for traveling long distances over a short period of time out of their range.

The Snow Leopard is an endangered species.  There may be as little as 3,920 Snow Leopards left and probably no more 6,390.  It’s greatest threat is poaching…where it’s parts are sold on the black market.  Therefore this is very difficult to trace.  Between 2003 and 2012 it was found that 480 Snow Leopards were killed and traded, that’s one cat per week.  Wild sheep and goat are also poached and this is the Snow Leopards main food supply.  Domestic livestock such as goats are sometimes killed by snow leopards and therefore herders kill snow leopards to protect their livestock.  The snow leopard also faces threats from mining and other large scale developments.  Climate change is also a threat.  Rising temperatures effect vegetation, water supply and animals and may render 1/3 of the snow leopards range uninhabitable.

The Snow Leopard Trust (a non-profit organization) works in the five countries that contain over 75% of the snow leopards.  These countries are China, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan and India.  It is involved in research of the snow leopard with remote sensor cameras and GPS tracing colors as well as other things.  They are conducting research into the snow leopard ecology to better understand the species.  This is a key building block for successful conservation programs.  They are looking into the population dynamics and trends of the snow leopard again to better understand them and to provide information for successful conservation programs.  Researchers are also trying to understand the dynamics between the snow leopards, people and the ecosystem.  Conservation programs are monitored to see how well they protect the snow leopard, their prey and their habitat.

The Snow Leopard Trust has also set up conservation programs to protect the snow leopard.  Herders are often found to coexist with the snow leopard and have a low income. They sometimes kill the snow leopard to protect their herds but also to supplement their income on the black market.  The Snow Leopard Trust has set up incentives to stop this poaching.  One of these incentives is the Snow Leopard Enterprises where people make beautiful products from the wool of their livestock for sale and thus the temptation to poach the snow leopard is less. These products are sold online at this store.  Snow Leopard Enterprises has increased family income by 40% in some cases.  This additional money has been used to buy food, medicine, clothing and other essentials.  To be part of the program people have to sign a conservation agreement.  Protecting the snow leopard and other wild species from poaching is part of the agreement and the whole community strives for this as well as selling the wool.  A bonus is awarded to the community at the end of the year, however, if any poaching has occurred then this bonus is lost.  Conservation education and outreach activities are also part of this program.  Snow Leopard Enterprises currently works with 400 women in 40 communities in Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Kyrgyzstan. In 2014 it made $1 million in revenue.  In Mongolia, communities protect 1/4 of the snow leopard population.

Snow Leopard Trust also has a community managed livestock insurance program where the herder gets compensation for livestock lost due to snow leopard attack.  Even the loss of one of the herd can be a great financial hardship for the herder.  Snow Leopard Trust builds a financial basis for this insurance and then the farmer adds money with a premium for each animal he wishes to insure.  The fund and the reimbursement is managed by the community.  To be part of this program the herder must sign a conservation agreement where he agrees to protect the snow leopard and it’s wild prey from poaching. The herder also agrees to set aside graze free areas where the wild prey can feed.

There are many other conservation programs at Snow Leopard Trust.  You can also adopt a snow leopard or even a snow leopard camera at this link.  The money made from adoptions is used to further research and to implement conservation programs.  Follow this link to donate. This is their Facebook page.

I have tried today to give a natures view of the snow leopard as well as an environmentalist’s view.  I hope you found this post interesting.  Please like or comment if you did!  I am trying to figure out what type of post you prefer.  Nature, environmental or art.  Please comment below and help me out!  If you liked this blog please like or share here or on Facebook.  You can also retweet on Twitter.  Until next week!  Have a good one!