Snow Leopard | WWF
© Muhammad Osama / WWF-Pakistn

Snow leopard

Why they matter?

This remarkable species plays a key role as both top predator and an indicator of the health of its high altitude habitat. If snow leopards thrive so will countless other species, as well as the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on the rivers flowing down from Central Asia’s mountains.
 
Snow leopards are solitary and elusive creatures that usually hunt at dawn and dusk. They’re stealthy predators, able to kill prey up to three times their own weight. Snow leopards’ favoured prey are herbivores, such as blue sheep, Argali sheep and ibex. But in many areas, snow leopards also prey on livestock, bringing them into conflict with herders.
 
Indeed, snow leopard habitats provides important resources for local communities – from food and medicine to grazing for livestock, and wood for shelter, heat and fuel, as well as water sources for millions of people downstream.
 

 
    © Fragile Connections: Snow leopards, people, water and the global climate
WWF report on importance of snow leopard habitat and impact of climate change
© Fragile Connections: Snow leopards, people, water and the global climate
Key Facts
Common name
common name

Snow Leopard, Panthère Des Neiges (Fr), Pantera De La Nieves (Sp)

Geographic place

habitat

Cold high mountains

Population

population

Estimated 3,920 - 6,390 individuals

Height

height & length

Adult length 90-130 cm; Shoulder height 60 cm; Tail length 80-100 cm

Latin name

scientific name

Panthera uncia, Uncia uncia

Endangered

status

IUCN: Vulnerable C1 CITES: Appendix I

Weight

weight

Adult male: 45-55 kg

Main threats

Snow leopards continue to face a number of threats including habitat loss, poaching and increasing conflict with communities. And climate change is now putting the future of their mountain home at even greater risk.

Poaching: Snow leopards have long been killed for their beautiful fur, but their bones and other body parts are also used in Traditional Asian Medicine. And the illegal trade in snow leopard parts appears to be increasing.

Conflict with communities: Herders sometimes kill snow leopards in retaliation for attacking their livestock. And the decline in the leopard’s natural prey - due to hunting, competition from increasing livestock herds, and habitat loss - is forcing them to rely more on livestock for food and increasing the risk of retaliatory killings.

Shrinking home: Snow leopards need vast areas to thrive, but expanding human and livestock populations are rapidly encroaching on their habitat. New roads and mines are also fragmenting their remaining range.

Changing climate: All these threats will be exacerbated by the impact of climate change on the fragile mountain environment - putting the future of snow leopards at even greater risk. It will also endanger the livelihoods of local communities and the tens of millions of people living downstream of these major watersheds.
Snow leopard in Naltar

© Muhammad Osama / WWF-Pakistan

Snow leopard pelt seized from smugglers

© I.A. Ivanitsky

What WWF is doing

WWF has been working for many years to conserve the snow leopard by supporting a range of projects across Central Asia to reduce conflict between leopards and people, boost rural development, and control the illegal wildlife trade.

For example, we’ve helped build leopard-proof livestock pens, and we’ve set up compensation schemes for farmers who lose livestock to snow leopards. And supported camera traps and collaring to learn more about this elusive species.

In 2015, WWF launched its first ever network-wide Species Action Plan for snow leopards.

This comprehenseive strategy builds upon the organization’s long history in snow leopard conservation as well as the projects that WWF offices are currently undertaking in snow leopard range states.

The new strategy defines WWF’s contribution to the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Plan, which was adopted by all 12 range states, and will ensure that WWF's efforts will complement the activities of governments and other organizations.

Under this strategy, WWF will work in 14 priority snow leopard landscapes.

The organization will focus on reducing poaching and stopping the trafficking of snow leopards and reducing demand for their parts through TRAFFIC.

It will also work to scale up successful community-based approaches to reduce human-leopard conflict, while helping to mitigate the threats of climate change.
WWF research team monitoring snow leopard presence in the Altan Khokki range, Khar Us Nuur National ... 
    © Hartmut Jungius / WWF
WWF research team monitoring snow leopard presence in the Altan Khokki range, Khar Us Nuur National Park, Mongolian Altai, Mongolia.
© Hartmut Jungius / WWF
The snow leopard was captured using a modified Aldrich foot snare equipped with satellite/VHF trap transmitters, which is a tried and tested means. The snow leopard came to no harm during the capture.

© © Kamal Thapa/WWF Nepal

Dr. Rinjan Shrestha, Conservation Scientist-Eastern Himalayas Program, WWF US, fixing the final screws of the collar; the snow leopard’s mouth is kept open to avoid possible suffocation from its tongue rolling back in. The snow leopard was collared with a GPS Plus Globalstar collar (Vectronics Aerospace Inc., Germany). The collar is programmed to take GPS locations or ‘fixes’ at four-hour intervals and is also fitted with mortality, temperature and activity sensors.

© © Kamal Thapa/WWF Nepal

The snow leopard is a symbol of Central Asia’s high mountains. This spectacular region shelters a vast array of unique wildlife and provides precious water to tens of millions of people. So by working to save the ‘Ghost of the Mountains’, we will also be helping to ensure a future for all the species and communities that depend on its extraordinary home.