Fact Sheet
Snow Leopard

Threats to Snow Leopards

Snow leopards are facing a distinct threat from climate change. Their typical habitat range is between where the tree line stops and the snow line begins on the mountains. As climate change causes temperatures to ruse, snow lines are receding, which means that snow leopards must move further up the mountain slopes as well. As snow leopards get to higher elevations, the vegetation becomes more scarce, which means that the herbivores that they prey on are in limited supply as well, and the leopards are having trouble finding enough food.

Due to the high demand for their coats, snow leopards are also illegally hunted for the fur trade. The pelts are a sought-after commodity in places like Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia where they are turned into coats and other garments. Snow leopard bones and body parts are also used for traditional Asian medicine. As humans expand their farm and grazing areas for livestock herds they are encroaching more into the snow leopards territories resulting in increased conflict with humans when snow leopards attack livestock during times when their natural prey is scarce.

Reasons For Hope

The snow leopard was placed on the endangered species list in 1972 to help protect its dwindling numbers. Similar to Defenders work with predator species in the United States, conservation groups near snow leopard habitats are working with local farmers and herders to help foster a better understanding of how to co-exist with these animals and minimize conflicts between them. 

The farmers are taught how to secure their barns and livestock holding areas against snow leopards and reimbursement programs have been set up to give the farmer fair market value for animals they have lost in return for allowing the snow leopards to live.  

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In the Magazine
Swift and silent as the falling snow, these adeptly named big cats stalk wild sheep, goats and other mountain mammals across some of Central Asia’s rockiest terrain.