The snow leopard is arguably the most beautiful of all the big cats, but sadly it is also one of the most endangered. Native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia, the snow leopard is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as it is now believed to be globally endangered.

Snow leopard - image Son
Like many cats, they are also opportunistic feeders, eating whatever meat they can find, including carrion and domestic livestock, however they are unusual among cats as they also eat a significant amount of vegetation, including grass and twigs!

Unfortunately their beauty has become their curse as their global existence is now under threat. They have been relentlessly pursued by man because of their remarkable coat.

While it is now protected by laws banning the sale of its fur, the high prices that such furs command means that illegal hunting still goes on.

It has had full protection in India since 1952 and also enjoys year round protection in the USSR. Despite this snow leopard coats still make their way on to the market.

Snow Leopard facts

Snow leopard
1. The snow leopard is actually slightly smaller than the leopard, but its dense fur makes it look larger than it really is.

2. Compared with the other members of the big cat family, the snow leopard's tail is much longer in proportion to the rest of its body. They use their long tails for balance and as blankets to cover sensitive body parts against the severe mountain chill.

3. While being hunted for its fur is the main cause of the snow leopard's population decline, another significant reason is that man has over hunted its natural prey species.

4. Snow leopards live in the high, rugged mountains of Central Asia, extending through twelve countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

5. Snow leopards are carnivores and actively hunt their prey. However like all cats, they are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever meat they can find, including carrion and domestic livestock.

Snow leopard -
6. Snow leopards are so powerful that they can kill animals three to four times their size, such as the Bharal, Himalayan Tahr, Markhor and Argali but will readily take much smaller prey such as hares and birds.

7. Unusual among cats, snow leopards will also eat a significant amount of vegetation as part of their normal diet.

8. Snow leopards have not been reported to attack humans, and appear to be among the least aggressive of all the big cats.

9. Snow leopards prefer to ambush prey from above, using broken terrain to conceal their approach, and can leap as far as 14 metres (46 ft).

10. Snow leopards kill with a bite to the neck, and may drag the prey to a safe location before feeding. They consume all edible parts of the carcass, and can survive on a single bharal for two weeks before hunting again.

11. One Indian snow leopard, protected and observed in a national park, is reported to have consumed five blue sheep, nine Tibetan woolly hares, twenty-five marmots, five domestic goats, one domestic sheep, and fifteen birds in a single year. As these numbers indicate, snow leopards sometimes have a taste for domestic animals, which has led to killings of the big cats by herders.

Snow leopard -
12. The snow leopard will typically breed towards the end of winter. The female will come on heat twice a year. First for about a week, and then, if mating does not occur, for a second period of up to 70 days.

13. The female snow leopard will make her nest among the rocks, using her own fur as bedding. About 14 weeks after mating, she will give birth to a litter containing anything between two to five cubs.

14. When born, the cubs are much darker than their mother. they are blind for their first week and can crawl after ten days. By the time they are two months old, and they have learned to run and are eating solid food as well as suckling milk. By mid-summer they follow their mother when she goes out to hunt, and they will stay with her until they are about a year old.

15. The snow leopard is extremely rare in most of their range due to the continuing demand for their skins. Although trade in snow leopard furs is illegal, it continues, threatening the snow leopard's existence. An estimated 3,000-10,000 are left in the wild, and about 370 are in captivity.

Click here for related articles:

No comments: