The Snow Leopard-Panthera uncia

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard, or Panthera uncia, is an elusive feline predator that stalks the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas and central Asia. They can grow up to 165 lbs. and four feet in length, with a tail of 80-100 cm. Their spotted coat provides them with excellent camoflague as they hunt on the snowy slopes. The main prey of the Snow Leopard is the Bharal, which resides in the Himalayas and TIbet, or the Asiatic Ibex, which are preyed upon by the Snow Leopards of central Asia.

The Snow Leopard has a specialized anatomy to allow it to be the master of its environment. Its legs are shortened to lower their center of gravity, giving them better balance. The tail is very long and thick to enhance its balance even more. The skull of the Snow Leopard has enlarged nasal and sinus chambers, which help it survive in the low-oxygen mountains. The short and well muscled jaw of the leopard gives it great biting strength, allowing the Snow Leopard to dispatch its prey with ease.

Even though the Snow Leopard is extremely elusive and lives in brutal environments, they were still hunted near extinction for their fur and body parts, which would be used in Eastern Medicine. The World Conservation Union (IUCN), lists the leopard as endangered, and the illegality of the trade of its fur and bodyparts is now being strictly enforced. The only way to keep this wonderous animal alive in the wild is to stop the illegal trade of its fur and bodyparts for good, to continue to study these animals in the wild, and to promote conservation efforts of their habitats.

For now, the range of the Snow Leopard is large, but if we do not act quickly, this will all change soon. Their range currently covers over 2 million kilometers of central Asia, the majority being in China. However, these predators have disappeared from where they used to reside, such as in Mongolia. Their habitat is harsh and unforgiving, usually being found between 3,000 and 5,4000 meters in altitude. They prefer steep cliffs and rocky outcrops, which give them a good cover and a good view to spot prey. The average home range for a Snow Leopard is 30-65 sq. kilometers, but when prey is scarce, the leopards need up to 1000 sq. kilometers each. These home ranges usually overlap, however the Snow Leopard does not aggressively defend its territory like other big cats.

The Snow Leopard is an elusive beast that majestically stalks the snowy mountains of central Asia. Their anatomy is unique to their environment, giving them as many benefits as possible. Their current range is large, however if we are not careful, it will disappear. Snow Leopards are very close to becoming extinct; now is the time for humans, the species who brought so much destruction upon them, to help conserve them and bring their numbers back up.\

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References

http://www.snowleopard.org/catfactsclassroom/catfacts/habitatandrange

Christiansen, Per. "Snow Leopard." The Encyclopedia of Animals. London: Amber, 2006. 138. Print.

Map of the Range of the Snow Leopard
Map of the Range of the Snow Leopard

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