All about Snow Leopards, Survival, Breeding, Behavior and How can we Protect them?

All about Snow Leopards, Survival, Breeding, Behavior and How can we Protect them?

Snow leopards are found across northern and central Asia‘s high mountain ranges in the Himalayas and the southern Siberian mountains in Russia.  Snow leopards are listed as vulnerable animals by the IUCN. The scientific name of the snow leopard is Panthera uncia, derived from the old French word once originally used for the European lynx. 

The snow leopard is also named the ounce which is known for its splendid fur and elusive behavior. Some believe snow leopards have their genus. On the other hand, others believe it belongs to the Felidae family from cat species that include lion, tiger, jaguar, snow leopard, cheetah, puma, and a domestic cat. Currently, in the global population. 

It is estimated to number fewer than 10000 snow leopards in the wild. Among them in Nepal 350-500 snow leopards are estimated to be found. In Nepal, snow leopards have been sight-seeing from Shey Phoksundo National park in the west to the Kanchenjunga conservation area in the east to the Himalayan region. Snow leopard’s name in the Nepali language is “Heung Chituwa “which lives at high altitudes in the snowy area of the Himalayas.  

It is also believed snow leopards survive in Manang, Mugu, Dolpa, Mustang, and Taplejung districts Usually they are found in 12 countries Himalayas including   India, China, and Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan,  Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia. It is believed that 60% of the entire population of snow leopards are found in china.

Mostly, snow leopard habitats are sheltered above the tree line and up to 18000 feet in elevation direction in high alpine areas of the Himalayas. In addition, snow leopards also live in woodlands, forests, and grassland savannas as well as deserts and scrublands.

Body structure and behavior of Snow Leopards

The snow leopard’s body is covered by thick hair with gray or creamy yellow and covered with grayish black spots, their wide -fur-covered feet play the role of snowshoes, jumping as far as 50 feet with the support of their powerful legs. The length of a snow leopard is 39 to 51 inches and the female one is slightly smaller than the male. 

Long tails length of about 31 to 39 inches plays a tremendous role in balance and as blankets to cover sensitive body parts against the severe mountain chill.  Snow leopard running speed per hour is about 58 km/hr. and males weigh up to 99 to 121 pounds, whereas females weigh 77 to 88 pounds. Snow leopards needed an enormous area for roaming to catch their prey.

 Male leopards obtained up to 80 square miles while female leopards require ranges up to 48 square miles. Snow leopards are non aggressive towards humans and run away to defend themselves even if they are disturbed while feeding. The lifespan of a snow leopard lives up to 22 years but life expectancy in the wild is crucial and complicated. Hence, the average living life is likely to be 10 to 12 years.

Prey /food:  It prefers to hunt at night and attack as prey for argali wild sheep, wooly hare, ibex ( Capra ), marmots, blue sheep (Bharal), deer, game birds, domestic livestock, and other small mammals. Snow leopards are capable of hunting prey three times their weight. They wait for their prey across the snow, stone, and icy surfaces until they reach 20 to 50 feet away. 

Snow Leopards Breeding

The mating season of snow leopard occurs from January to Mid March. During mating, male and female leopards stay and walk together for a few days. The female snow leopard gestated for 93- 110 days and sheltered the den site for giving birth to newborn cubs in June and July.  Female snow leopards give new cubs 1 to 5 but commonly give birth 2 to 3 in number and open their eyes about 7 days after they are born. Newborn cubs stay and depend upon their mother for at least 12 months.

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After 18-22 months old cubs became independent from their mother and searched for their territory. According to the survey, At age 3 female snow leopards are capable to have their cubs, while male snow leopards are sexually mature by age 4.

The problem in survival for the Snow Leopards 

Recently, due to many factors, the snow leopard habitat population is decreasing significantly day by day.  People hunt leopards for many reasons. Such as making traditional medicine, and skin for decoration items, in the sense of retaliatory by killing domestic animals. Poaching for illegal trades,  large mammals also hunt them as prey and global warming is raising the temperature in their living territory which decline their extinction.

Likewise, inadequate space for their roaming influences low prey densities, which decreases their number. In the same way, population growth expanded livestock and infrastructure development of railway, ropeway, roads, and hydropower facilities which create threats to minimizing the snow leopard population.

How can we Protect those endangered animals?

Snow leopard conservancy located in Sonoma, California is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by Dr. Rodney Jackson who is known for snow leopard expertise.  SLC aims to protect the snow leopard habitat.

So, in collaboration with indigenous communities, government organs, other international organizations (WWF) and SLC  works in teamwork in different countries including  India, Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Russia about snow leopard habitats. After a joint venture survey they recommended that snow leopards are endangered mammals.  So,

snow leopard with his brother

Conservation areas should be built as soon as possible to protect snow leopards due to many reasons. By analyzing the problem of snow leopards they provide solutions to the problem to protect and increase the population of snow leopards.

Such as providing training to herders to protect their livestock by building predator-proof corrals and providing conservation education, reducing conflict of confrontation with a snow leopard by promoting the building of human resident areas far from snow leopard territory. Likewise,  controlling poaching and trafficking of snow leopard parts to make stuff and medicine for human beings through awareness programs directly and indirectly through social media. 

Balancing flora and fauna

Appealing to community groups and governments to balance flora and fauna in a diversified way to balance the ecosystem. Such as planting of plants in the landslide and empty areas, controlling pollution, and enormous roaming areas for roaming and hunting should be managed effectively. A strong policy should be made by the government to minimize the illegal trade of leopards.

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Hemis National Park is a high-altitude national park located in Ladakh, India, which is believed to have the highest density of snow leopards of any protected area in the world. In Nepal, there are seven mountain protected areas: Shey Phoksundo National Park, Makalu  Barun National Park, Manaslu  Conservation  Area, Langtang National Park, Sagarmatha  National Park, Annapurna  Conservation Area, and  Kanchanjunga Conservation Area.

September 4, 2022