International Snow Leopard Day is an annual holiday celebrated in different countries across the world. It is dedicated to saving one of the rarest wild cats on the planet.
Snow Leopards are often referred to as “mountain ghosts” given their secretive nature and how rarely they are seen. one of the most enigmatic species on the planet, the snow leopard remains one of the least understood of the big cats.
There are believed to be between 4,500 and 10,000 snow leopards living in the wild today; the exact number is unknown as they are extremely elusive and challenging to survey. However, new research, including camera trapping, is starting to indicate there may be more cats than previously thought. The snow leopard is listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
The capture and killing of Snow Leopards for the illegal wildlife market is a primary threat to the species’ survival. Live Snow Leopards or their body parts can sell for thousands of US dollars; their distinctive fur is highly coveted and their bones are used in traditional Asian medicine. Snow leopards are often killed by humans in retaliation for – or to prevent – preying on livestock, which increasingly populate snow leopard habitat. Snow leopards are experiencing a loss of prey – primarily wild mountain sheep and goats – from both illegal and legal hunting by humans.
The big cat conservation organisation Panthera currently leads or supports conservation activities in 5 of the 12 snow leopard range countries. Using new and improved techniques for monitoring low density populations in remote rugged habitats, Panthera’s Snow Leopard Program is collecting a wealth of data to better understand this enigmatic species and how best to protect it. Program activities include conducting surveys, training national biologists, assessing threats, securing habitat, mitigating human-wildlife conflict by collaborating with local communities, and helping governments establish and implement National Snow Leopard Action Plans. Panthera is rapidly expanding conservation efforts in China – where at least half of all wild snow leopards are thought to exist – to better address imminent threats to their survival.