Snow Leopard Faces Extinction


Panthera uncial, more commonly known as the snow leopard, is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List. This grey and white black spotted large cat is illusive in nature to begin with, but over the last twenty years their population numbers have been steadily decreasing.

As its name suggests, the snow leopard lives in northern climates. Their natural range normally covers northern Asia, more specifically areas like Russia, Tibet, China, and Mongolia, as well as several middle eastern countries. It generally frequents steep slopes and cliffs and areas with lots of natural cover. The snow leopard is a top predator, and as such, it is a valuable asset in controlling the herd sizes of wild sheep as well as small rodents like marmot and hares.

In some places, the snow leopard is already regionally extinct. This means that while that area may have been the snow leopard’s natural habitat, it no longer exists there in the wild. While it is difficult to estimate a population size for the snow leopard, the IUCN estimates there are only around 6,500 snow leopards left, most of which are located in China and Mongolia.

Like many top predators, the snow leopard’s biggest survival challenge comes in the form of human beings. Snow leopards are known to prey on livestock, which makes them a target of farmers. Illegal trade of this cat’s fur and bones makes it a target of poachers, and law enforcement and protection for the leopard have been largely ineffective. Other human influences in the form of farmland and expanding cities mean a shrinking habitat range and depleted food sources.

The IUCN has taken action in the defense of the snow leopard by officially making it illegal to hunt and trade in the big cat as well as encouraging law enforcement to crack down on poachers in problem areas. Laws were also instated about farming and livestock management to promote coexisting and preserving the snow leopard and its habitat.

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