X

Snow Leopards

Snow Leopard Trust

Researchers estimate that there are only between 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards left in the wild. These solitary cats face a multitude of threats to their existence: illegal hunting, loss of prey, loss of habitat, lack of effective conservation protection, and conflict with local communities and herders needing to protect their livestock.

As a participant in the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP), Zoo New England is a member of the Snow Leopard Trust’s Natural Partnership Program (NPP), contributing funds to support research and programs aimed at protecting snow leopards and their natural habitat.

Stone Zoo is home to this exquisite cat, and when you encounter the snow leopard's beauty up close, you’ll understand immediately why they must be protected.

2017 Updates from the Field

Here are a few significant Snow Leopard Trust highlights from 2017:

-Three snow leopards were equipped with GPS collars in the Tost Nature Reserve in Mongolia's South Gobi province. These are the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd snow leopards to be tracked as part of a long-term study of their behavior. Collars allow researchers to track and map habitat use and interactions between the cats. Their positions are relayed to a satellite every few hours, and data is stored for later study of location and activity. After 24 months, the collar drops off.

-The Trust expanded its long-term study in Tost to include a collaring study of ibex, the snow leopard's main prey. This will allow researchers to better understand snow leopard ecology, as well as the ecology of ibex themselves.

-Conservationists in Pakistan created a comic book about snow leopards and their conflicts with humans to help educate the local community about this complex relationship.

-In April, 2017, the Shanshui Conversation Center collected data from 110 camera traps to aid in the long-term monitoring of these cats.

-SLCF continues to supply frontline wildlife rangers with law enforcement training, as well as GPS units and binoculars, making them better equipped to confront poachers. Rangers who apprehend poachers are also publicly recognized and rewarded for their efforts.

Read more here.

Overview

Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) inhabit the mountains of 12 Central Asian countries, where they are able to brave harsh conditions thanks to physical characteristics such as short forelimbs and large paws for negotiating rocky and snowy terrain, long thick fur, and a long, thick, furry, and flexible tail that provides extra warmth when wrapped around the face and body.

But despite their remote habitat, snow leopards face multiple threats in the form of poachers seeking their fur and bones, a decline in their prey, human encroachment on their habitat, retribution killings by herders looking to protect their livestock, and mining activity in the mountains involving dangerous chemicals and explosives. Snow leopards are classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

The Snow Leopard Trust is the premiere organization working to protect the snow leopard from extinction by better understanding their behavior and habitat, collaborating with those who live and work near the habitat to create a better balance between conservation and community needs, and seeking resources to sustain long-term conservation programs. Zoo New England remains a proud member of the Trust’s Natural Partnership Program, contributing funds to support the organization’s highest priority conservation projects, including a long-term ecological study of snow leopards and their habitat in Mongolia and conservation education programs in India.

Snow Leopards at Stone Zoo

There are about 600 snow leopards living in zoos around the world. Among them are Kira Victoria and Harry, who can be seen roaming the Himalayan Highlands exhibit even on the coldest of winter days. Their Stone Zoo habitat is a naturalistic setting dominated by large rocky outcroppings. As with other large cats, you may hear them hiss, growl, moan, yowl or purr, but snow leopards do not roar.

Snow leopards are stocky, medium-sized cats, weighing between 60-120 pounds and measuring anywhere from 39-51 inches long—excluding their tails, which can grow to be almost as long as their bodies. Their smoky-gray fur, patterned with dark gray or black open rosettes can render them almost invisible in their rocky habitat.

They are secretive and lead largely solitary lives, except for mothers who are rearing cubs. Snow leopards are most active at dawn and dusk.

In the wild, snow leopards can live to be 13 years old. In zoos, their lifespan can be as long as 22 years.

For more on snow leopards, visit our Stone Zoo Animals page.

What you can do

Snowleopard Zoodopt

  • You can also support snow leopard conservation by supporting Zoo New England, which helps us continue our conservation work and care for the snow leopards at Stone Zoo.
  • Zoodopt a snow leopard! Zoodoption helps us provide excellent food, care and enrichment for all of our animals.
  • The Snow Leopard Trust occasionally has volunteer opportunities that interested people can do remote from the organization’s Seattle headquarters.