Though the Snow leopards habitat extends into 12 countries, only 3,000 to 6,000 remain today in the wild. Snow leopards habitat is in central and south Asia, a rugged mountainous region, extends through Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Prey: main prey is that of wild sheep such as Bharal (Blue Sheep) and Argali, goats, including Markhor and Ibex. Other prey taken includes Musk Deer, marmots, various species of hare and birds, it is common, during the harsh winter months for the cat to take domestic livestock.
Mongolian wildlife biologist Munkhtsog who is Mongolian Program director of the International Snow Leopard Trust says:
they mark certain landscapes to communicate with each other, like the language of people,
He has trained lot of people to follow snow leopards by the shallow holes they dig, scent marks they leave on the underside of rocks and scratch marks on trees.
Why are snow leapords in the endangered red list?
Its fur is coveted as a beautiful pelt by fur lovers and a large, lucrative black market for its fur trade exists.
It is hunted for its bones, which are commonly used in many traditional Chinese medicines.
Overgrazing of domestic animals in some areas has depleted natural prey
Many of its larger prey species in the food chain have declined.
Though it is illegal to hunt them, but the law is difficult to enforce in remote areas where snow leopards are most common.
With limited budgets, it is difficult for rangers to patrol such rugged habitats
Getting killed by angry villagers whose livestock becomes their prey. A leopard will enter a livestock pen at night and kill even up to even 100 animals with its repeated hunting instinct.
What can we do?
Further develop radio-tracking study of snow leopards.
Make more Predator-proof the night corrals for domestic animals.
Improve the economic conditions of those who are dependent on smuggling/ poaching though other means. For example encouraging local herding families to make wool handicrafts to be sold in Mongolia and in the United States
Breed snow leopards in captivity and set them free.
This elusive carnivore is a solitary big cat, who pairs only during the breeding season. Today its existence has come much into conflict with that of men and it must be preserved before man makes it extinct!