The Snow Leopard


General


The snow leopard (Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia) is a moderately large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia. The snow leopard is listed on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species as globally Endangered. The Hemis National Park is one of the main area of snow leopard conservation in India.
Snow leopards occupy alpine and subalpine areas generally 3,350 to 6,700 metres (10,990 to 22,000 ft) above sea level in Central Asia. The total estimated population is 4,150–7,350. However, the global snow leopard effective population size (those likely to reproduce) is suspected to be fewer than 2,500 (50% of the total population, or 2,040–3,295).

Snow Leopard


Description


Snow leopards are slightly smaller than the other big cats but, like them, exhibit a range of sizes, generally weighing between 27 and 55 kg (60 and 120 lb), with an occasional large male reaching 75 kg (170 lb) and small female of under 25 kg (55 lb). They have a relatively short body, measuring in length from the head to the base of the tail 75 to 130 cm (30 to 50 in). However, the tail is quite long, at 80 to 100 cm (31 to 39 in). They are stocky and short-legged big cats, standing about 60 cm (24 in) at the shoulder.

Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:


Snow Leopard

Snow leopards have long, thick fur, and their base colour varies from smoky gray to yellowish tan, with whitish underparts. They have dark grey to black open rosettes on their bodies, with small spots of the same color on their heads and larger spots on their legs and tails. Unusually among cats, their eyes are pale green or grey in colour.
Snow leopards show several adaptations for living in a cold, mountainous environment. Their bodies are stocky, their fur is thick, and their ears are small and rounded, all of which help to minimize heat loss. Their paws are wide, which distributes their weight better for walking on snow, and have fur on their undersides to increase their grip on steep and unstable surfaces; it also helps to minimize heat loss. Snow leopards' tails are long and flexible, helping them to maintain their balance, which is very important in the rocky terrain they inhabit. Their tails are also very thick due to storage of fat and are very thickly covered with fur which allows them to be used like a blanket to protect their faces when asleep.

Snow Leopard

The snow leopard has a short muzzle and domed forehead, containing unusually large nasal cavities that help the animal breathe the thin, cold air of their mountainous environment.
The snow leopard cannot roar, despite possessing partial ossification of the hyoid bone. This partial ossification was previously thought to be essential for allowing the big cats to roar, but new studies show the ability to roar is due to other morphological features, especially of the larynx, which are absent in the snow leopard. Snow leopard vocalizations include hisses, chuffing, mews, growls, and wailing.

Snow Leopard

Conservation status


Numerous agencies are working to conserve the snow leopard and its threatened mountain ecosystems. These include the Snow Leopard Conservancy, the Snow Leopard Trust, the Snow Leopard Network, the Cat Specialist Group and the Panthera Corporation. Their focus on research, community programs in snow leopard regions, and education programs are aimed at understanding the cat's needs, as well as the needs of the villagers and herder communities affecting snow leopards' lives and habitat.
The Hemis National Park is one of the main area of snow leopard conservation in India. YAFCAD HNP members, in cooperation with other organizations like Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife Department and NGOs like Snow Leopard Conservancy, are amongst the main actors for the protection of the snow leopard in this area. They have both direct actions on the animal (for example, they catch injured or sick leopards and they take care of them till they are able to recover wildlife), or indirect: a specific training is given to some guides to make them able to track and to observe the snow leopard with their clients without disturbing the big cat.


Sources: Wikipedia, National Geographic.



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