Snow Leopards are captivating and powerful animals. However, they are also vulnerable to loss of prey and poaching. These animals are distributed sparsely across 12 different countries in Central Asia. They tend to be found in rugged, high mountain landscapes, at elevations between 3,000 and 4,500m. The key to protecting this species is raising awareness. That’s what Snow Leopard Day is all about.
History Of Snow Leopard Day
The first Snow Leopard Day occurred on the 23rd of October in 2014. The main purpose of this day is to show the importance of snow leopard conservation and raise awareness about this incredible animal. The day also emphasizes the importance of taking measures to stop poaching, as well as consolidating efforts in terms of an environmental organization in the countries of the snow leopard range.
The day was initiated by the countries that encompass the snow leopard’s range. They include Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, India, China, Bhutan, and Afganistan. On the 23rd of October, in 2013, these countries signed the Bishkek Declaration regarding the conservation of the snow leopard. This happened in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, at the very first Global Snow Leopard Forum.
Fascinating Facts About Snow Leopards
- Snow leopards are able to prey on animals that are up to three times their own body weight.
- They have massive, thick tails, which are able to help them maintain balance and shield them from harsh weather. Their tails are almost as long as their entire body.
- A study from the WWF has recorded snow leopards living at 5,859 meters above sea level. This is the highest altitude that has ever been documented for big cats. This is about the same height as the highest mountain in Canada.
- You may be surprised to learn that snow leopards are not able to roar. Instead, they mew, yowl, and growl. They also prusten, which is also known as chuffing. This is a non-threatening vocalization, which is made when they blow air through their nose.
- The fur on the stomach of a snow leopard is almost five inches thick. This is so that they can survive in the harsh and cold mountain climates.
- These animals are often referred to as ‘ghosts of the mountain’ because they spend most of their lives in solitude and they are rarely seen.
- Snow leopards are the only big cats that call Asia’s cold deserts their home. These deserts are sometimes referred to as the third pole because they feature ice fields with the biggest reserves of freshwater outside of the southern and northern polar regions.
What Threats Do Snow Leopards Face?
The exact number of snow leopards is unknown. Experts believe that there is no more than 6,390 snow leopards around the world, yet the number could be as small as 3,920. There are a number of threats that this elusive cat faces, including poaching. Data is hard to come by in this respect because a lot of trades with snow leopard parts occur in the dark. Some research shows that one snow leopard has been killed and traded every day between 2008 and 2016. However, the true extent of the issue is thought to be even bigger.
No animal should be poached, and this is why the likes of Snow Leopard Day are so important so that we can raise awareness about the issue. Poaching is also a problem because it takes away resources for the snow leopard. The main prey species for the snow leopard are wild goat and sheep. However, these species are also threatened by unsustainable or illegal hunting in a lot of the parts of the snow leopard range. So, if there is a decline in their populations, there is also going to be a decline in the population of the snow leopard.
Snow leopards face a number of other threats that a lot of people don’t consider. For example, their mountain ecosystem could be destroyed because of large-scale developments, including mining. Climate change also poses a number of challenges as well. Temperatures are increasing in the mountains across Central Asia. This has an impact on the entire ecosystem; from water supplies to vegetation. It is certainly worrying times for snow leopards, and a good way to spend Snow Leopard Day is by educating yourself fully on the issues these animals face.