Snow leopards scale the great, steep slopes of mountains in Central Asia with ease, blending into the landscape. But these endangered cats face many threats including habitat loss from climate change, reduced prey and retaliatory killings.
Here’s a look at what you should know about the species:
1. Snow leopards are known as the “Ghosts of the Mountain” because of their solitary and elusive nature.
2. There are believed to be fewer than 7,000 snow leopards in the wild.
3. Humans are the sole predator of snow leopards. When snow leopards invade livestock, they are often killed in retaliation for a loss of livelihood. WWF works with local communities to curb retaliatory killings by provide innovative solutions to mitigate human-snow leopard conflict.
4. Snow leopards sport a long, thick tail that measures about three feet in length. They use it for balance when moving and extra warmth at rest, when it’s wrapped around the body and face.
5. The habitat of the snow leopard continues to decline as increased grazing and human settlements fragment the historic range of the species. WWF helps educate local communities about sustainable development to preserve the home of the big cat.
6. Climate change will likely destroy nearly 30 percent of snow leopard habitat in the mountain ranges of Central Asia, stretching from northwestern China to Tibet and the Himalayas.
7. Solid spots cover the snow leopard’s head, neck and lower limbs, while rosettes—large rings enclosing smaller spots—cover the rest of the body. WWF relies on spot patterns to identify individuals when conducting camera trap research.