The world’s most elusive and charismatic large felid
The endangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is perhaps the world’s most elusive and charismatic large felid.
The wild population is roughly estimated at 4500–7500, spread across a range of 1.2–1.6 million km2 in 12 or 13 countries of South and Central Asia, namely Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kyrgyz- stan, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and possibly also Myanmar.
High vulnerability to poaching
Snow leopards suffer from similar conservation challenges as other large felids, namely persistence at naturally low densities, extensive home ranges, dependence upon prey whose populations are low and/or mostly declining, and high vulnerability to poaching and other anthropogenic threats.
They inhabit mountainous rangelands at elevations of 3000 to over 5000 m in the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau, but as low as 600 m in Russia and Mongolia.
Although relatively few humans live in snow leopard habitat, their use of the land is pervasive, resulting in ever-increasing human–wildlife conflict, even within protected areas. Snow leopards, and other sympatric wildlife range across the larger landscape beyond protected areas, albeit at low densities.
Since few (if any) protected areas are free of human influence, the snow leopards’ survival hinges upon an uneasy coexistence with subsistence pastoralists and farmers eking out their living from the same harsh environment.
Snow leopards were first listed as endangered under the 1972 IUCN red list data. The 1975 enactment of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Flora and Fauna prohibited all international commercial trade of Appendix 1 species (which includes snow leopards). All snow leopard range states except Tajikistan are party to CITES, with Bhutan and Kyrgyzstan joining recently.
Research cameras helping conservation
In the summer of 2008 The Snow Leopard Trust launched its long-term study and began using sensor research cameras to aid the identification and counting of snow leopards. Cameras are set out in places where snow leopards are supposed to come more or less regularly. In 2011, 40 research cameras were set out to photograph snow leopards. Remote-triggering occurs as soon as a movement is detected by the cell of the camera. Of course, not only snow leopards are photographed, but also other animals sharing the same ecosystem ...