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article imageWarning about the endangered status of snow leopards

By Tim Sandle     Oct 22, 2016 in Environment
A new study records hundreds of snow leopards being killed by poachers every year across the high mountain ranges of Asia. The report adds to concerns about the decline of these big cats.
One reason why the snow leopard is an endangered species is due to a reduction in its available food supply. In August 2016 Digital Journal reported on a decline with the population of large ungulate animals (like ibex) was adversely affecting snow leopard numbers, reflecting the positioning of these two animals in the food chain. While diet is important, another, human-led factor, is contributing to the loss of snow leopards: poaching.
The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is a large cat species native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. The leopards are listed as endangered with no more than 5,000 animals remaining in the wild. Snow leopards are characterized by long, thick fur, and their base color varies from smoky gray to yellowish tan, with whitish underparts. Populations are found in countries like China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan as well as Mongolia, Tajikistan and Russia, territories where the Himalayan and Tibetan plateaus stretch.
The extent of poaching has been highlighted by a new report, produced by the conservation group Traffic. Around four snow leopards each week are being lost to poachers, the report indicates, and with a population hovering around the 5,000 mark this is a significant reduction when extrapolated over months and years.
Killing and trading the pelts of snow leopards is illegal under international law. However, there is an on-line trade with the animal skins. James Compton from Traffic, told the BBC there's an underlying reason why snow leopards are being targeted: "We think that what most observations, seizure records and expert opinion shows is that the majority is still happening because of retaliatory killing."
This means that nomad communities are concerned about leopard attacks on their livestock, and the poaching activities are partly defensive and partly profit-seeking. To address this, Traffic (a joint program of World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Union) are seeking to work with communities to find solutions.
More about snow leopards, Poaching, Leopards