The Snow leopard!!!
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The defender of the snow!!
Snow leopards or Panthera Uncia as they are known by their scientific name, are the most least studied and observed of the cat family. Partly due to the terrain in which they reside and due to their abnormally 'Shy' nature, these cats have long escaped the prying eyes of the humans.
They are native to the mountainous regions of Central Asia and south Asia. Measuring in length of about 6-7.5 feet and weighing about 75-125 pounds, the female of the species weighs around 30% less than the males.
Since they live in Cold mountainous regions, the fur of a snow leopard is very long and thick, the base color of which varies from smokey gray to yellowish tan, with whitish underparts. They have dark gray to black open rosettes on their body with small spots of the same color on their heads and larger spots on their legs and tail. These markings gives him a perfect camouflage in the terrain in which he resides.
Snow leopards are found in approximately 12 countries: Bhutan, Afghanistan, China, India, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, The kyrgyz republic, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. An individual snow leopard lives within a well defined home range but does not defend its territory aggressively when encroached upon by other snow leopards. Home ranges vary greatly in size, depending entirely on the population of prey in a given area. For example, In Nepal, where the prey is quite abundant, the home range would be quite small whereas in Kazakhstan where the density of prey is less, the home range would be far and wide.
Snow-leopards are carnivores and actively hunt their prey but like other big cats, they are opportunistic feeders eating whatever meat they can find. Going by the extreme weather and terrain conditions in which they survive, this is no big surprise!!Their inclination to feed on domestic livestock sometimes brings them in direct confrontation with humans, which more often than not results in disastrous consequences. Herders will kill snow leopards to prevent them from taking their animals.
Snow leopards prefer to inhabit steep cliff areas, rocky outcrops and ravines. Such habitats provide them with the camouflage they need to ambush unsuspecting prey. They stalk their prey and usually spring from a distance of 20-50 feet. Their long and powerful hind limbs help the snow leopard leap up to 30 feet, which is 6 times its body length. Mostly active at dawn and dusk, snow leopards are rarely seen in the wild.
Snow-leopards usually mate in late winter and have a gestation period of 90-100 days. Litter sizes vary from 1-5 cubs, 2-3 being more common.Snow leopards normally live for 15–18 years, but may live for up to 20 years in captivity.
The highest number of snow leopards are found in China, followed by Mongolia and India. A unique feature about this animal is that it cannot roar like other big cats. The reason being the roar of a big cat originates in a voice organ called 'Larynx' which is missing in this species. But that no way makes it less fearful than his inland cousins. In-fact to dub them as fearful would be to in-justify their stature. Snow-leopards are stunningly beautiful, gracious and intelligent predators.
Increasing population of humans and the ever dwindling forest area and their indigenous prey have taken a direct toll on this awesome mammal. Confrontations with humans have been on an alarming rise. And the ever-prevalent threat of the poachers have indeed cast a shadow on the survival of this 'Defender of the snow'.
Unless efforts are made to preserve this species, the world would very soon lose one of her most prized fauna for ever.
Organizations such as 'SnowleoparId.org' and WWF have been engaged in an intense crusade to save this 'Ghost of the Mountains' from extinction.
The first and foremost effort has been directed at the locals residing in and around the big cat's domain. If a genuine and controlled effort at saving the snow leopard is to be realistically made possible, then the support and knowledge of the locals are of paramount importance.
We, as responsible citizens, should also make a conscious effort to stop purchasing any products made out of this magnificent predator. As long as there is demand for such products, poachers would continue to hunt snow leopards irrespective of what laws are brought forth. Hence it is our collective responsibility to stop purchasing such products and also educate people about the reasons for doing so.
Genuine lovers of this species can make their voice heard by visiting the trust started in order to facilitate their preservation. Visit 'SnowleoparId.org' or WWF for more details. The links of various other organizations where you can make a difference and do your bit to save this fabulous species are as listed in the below capsule.
Save the Snow-Leopards!
- Snow Leopard | Species | WWF
Protect endangered species, including the snow leopard, at World Wildlife Fund. Learn about the ways WWF works to conserve a future where people live in harmony with nature.
- Wildlife Conservation Society- Snow Leopard
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) works to save the snow leopard throughout the Himalaya.
- Snow Leopard Trust | Saving Snow Leopards
- Panthera | Programs | Snow Leopard Program
Panthera directs and implements conservation strategies for the world’s largest and most endangered cats: tigers, lions, jaguars and snow leopards.