The snow leopard is perfectly adapted to the harsh world of the Central Asian high mountains, but it faces many threats. Poaching, loss of living space, and conflicts with the local population threaten the vigorous climbers.
Snow leopards live in alpine and subalpine regions of Central Asia, from Uzbekistan in the west to Mongolia in the north to China in the east and India in the south. The loners live at altitudes between 2,700 and 6,000 meters. The big, muscular forelegs of the big cats are slightly shorter than their hind legs, which allows them to climb over rocky ridges and sloping slopes. Their tails, which are up to one meter long, provide them with the necessary balance. The climber’s paws are large and hairy and work like snowshoes. They distribute the weight of the snow leopard evenly so that it doesn’t sink into the soft snow. His thick fur with long hair and woolly undercoat keeps him warm in the harsh mountain climate.
Versatile Threats To Snow Leopards
Consequently, the stock is currently estimated at only 4,000 to 6,400 specimens in the wild. Although the snow leopard is protected, it continues to face problems. Farmers and shepherds are driving their herds ever higher into the mountains and climate change is also causing the snow leopard’s habitat to shrink. The snow leopard is pushed back and finds less and less prey. The loss of their natural prey drives snow leopards to attack more herds and farm animals such as yaks. In some areas, 50% of the snow leopard’s food consists of farm animals. As a result, the local population sees the snow leopard as a threat and, out of revenge for lost farm animals, lay marmot traps in which the snow leopard often dies painfully.
He is also still being illegally hunted. Its thick fur is precious and is used to make clothes. The bones can be sold at a high price as part of traditional Chinese medicine.
The snow leopards are endangered!
What Dangers Snow Leopards Is Exposed To?
Its population has decreased by about a fifth in the entire distribution area in the past two decades. There are several reasons for this:
- Climate change: If we humans continue to heat the global climate with our greenhouse gases, the snow leopards will lose its habitat. Why? It lives above the tree line. When it gets warmer, the tree line in the mountains moves up.
- Poaching: Eventually, the criminal trade in fur and bones of the snow leopards directly threatens it. Excessive hunting for its prey, such as the Argali wild sheep and the Siberian ibex, also affects him greatly because it often lacks enough food.
- Conflicts with humans: Consequently, if there is a shortage of wild animals and more and more livestock live in the mountains, there are conflicts with humans.
- As in Mongolia: the country is more than four times the size of Germany, has three million inhabitants and over 40 million farm animals like horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and trampled animals. In autumn, the owners drive their herds into the mountains to protect them from the blizzards of the plains. Most farm animals are easy prey for the snow leopards there.