The snow leopard: a beautiful animal at risk of extinction. Interesting facts about this beautiful feline
The snow leopard (Panthera Uncia) is a feline native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia: the first specimen was described in 1775 and was a specimen from the Kopet-Dag mountains, on the border between Turkmenistan and Iran.
This beautiful feline is characterized by a thick fur whose color varies from light gray to cream: compared to the common leopard, the snow leopard is smaller, weighing from 25 kg (females) up to 75 kg in some particularly large male specimens.
The snow leopard is known to be a very shy and secretive, but at the same time fascinating animal: unfortunately, several factors are threatening its survival. Here are some interesting facts about this magnificent feline.
Some interesting facts about the snow leopard
The snow leopard (Panthera Uncia) is a feline native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia: the first specimen was described in 1775 and came from the Kopet-Dag mountains, on the border between Turkmenistan and Iran. This beautiful feline is characterized by thick fur, the color of which varies from light gray to cream: compared to the common leopard, the snow leopard is smaller, weighing from 25 kg (females) up to 75 kg in some particularly large male specimens. The snow leopard is known to be a very shy and secretive, but at the same time fascinating animal: unfortunately, several factors are threatening its survival. Here are some interesting facts about this magnificent feline.
The habitat of the snow leopard
The snow leopard lives in the highlands between 3350 and 6700 meters above sea level, among the mountains of Central and South Asia. Specifically, its range includes China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Siberia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In summer, the snow leopard usually lives above the tree line in mountain meadows and rocky terrain, while in winter it may descend into forests.
Estimates of the number of specimens remaining
The snow leopard has a very shy and secretive nature, so it is very difficult to spot it, study it and make an estimate of the number of specimens present. The number of specimens in the world is believed to be between 4,000 and 6,500. However, there should be about 2,500 leopards of breeding age (roughly 50 percent of the total population). These are very low numbers, although good news has recently come from Pakistan: the number of specimens in this country is sligthly increasing.
What are the main threats to the snow leopard?
Although the snow leopard is a superpredator (i.e., it is at the top of the food chain and is not preyed upon by other animals), several factors threaten its survival and have forced specialized agencies to classify it as a vulnerable and therefore as an endangered animal. The first cause is the scarcity of prey, due to the destruction of the habitat by human intervention and climate change. The second factor is poaching: despite being absolutely illegal, this feline is killed by hunters for its beautiful fur. Finally, mining is also a problem: miners use dangerous chemicals and explosives to extract minerals from the mountains where the leopard lives.
There are so many associations established to protect this animal
Many associations have sprung up to protect the leopard. The most important are Snow Leopard Trust, Snow Leopard Conservancy, Snow Leopard Network, Cat Specialist Group and Panthera Corporation. These groups often collaborate with the national governments of countries where this species lives. The goal of these bodies is to raise awareness among the inhabitants of the places where leopards live, as well as to protect and control this species. For example, in collaboration with the WWF, some associations use photo traps for research purposes: as soon as a leopard activates these traps, the inhabitants are alerted, they can secure their livestock, and finally it is possible to photograph and identify the different specimens in order to protect them.
The tail of this feline has a dual role.
The long, thick tail (about 80-100 centimeters) has a fundamental protective function: during long, freezing winters, the leopard in fact rolls its tail around its snout as if it were a scarf, allowing it to stay warm while resting. In addition, the tail helps this feline maintain balance while climbing rocky terrain.
The snow leopard cannot roar!
Despite being a big cat and a carnivore, unlike its peers the snow leopard is not able to roar but... meows! The meowing is clearly not that typical of domestic cats, but it is a kind of growling, whining cry. Some scholars even believe that the snow leopard is the only species in the genus Panthera that can also purr.