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Snow Leopards

Snow Leopard Trust

Zoo New England is a Conservation Partner with the Snow Leopard Trust, working together to protect this flagship species from extinction.

The Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) is the oldest and largest organization working to better understand leopard behavior and habitat. The Trust is active in all seven provinces in Mongolia, which is home to the second largest snow leopard population in the world. SLT collaborates with those who live and work near snow leopard habitats to create a better balance between conservation and community needs, and seeks resources to sustain long-term conservation programs. 

In this conservation partnership, Zoo New England and SLT are working together to implement Mongolia’s Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program strategy through improved collaboration with herder communities in South Gobi, Mongolia.

This project directly benefits herder families, particularly women and children in rural Mongolia, through additional income and educational opportunities. SLT’s handicrafts program has been shown to increase women's sense of well-being, empowerment, and decision-making for the environment. Conservation Contracts, livestock insurance and predator-proof corrals are additional program initiatives that help alleviate farmers’ conflict with snow leopards and increase social acceptance. The project also directly involves local government and wildlife managers (rangers) through collaborative surveys, information-sharing and long-term planning and monitoring.

The Threats

Researchers estimate that there are only between 3,920 and 6,390 snow leopards left in the wild. These apex predators inhabit the mountains of 12 Central Asian countries, where they are perfectly adapted to thriving in harsh conditions. 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. While listed as "vulnerable" by IUCN, snow leopards are likely declining across most of their range, and less than 2% of their range has been adequately sampled for population abundance.

SLT Updates from the Field

Highlights from 2020:

Snow Leopard Trust teams:

  • Signed and initiated conservation partnerships with four new communities in the Himalayas and the Karakoram.
  • Created new agreements to convert two former hunting concessions into sanctuaries in the Kyrgyz Tien Shan.
  • Conducted camera trapping of snow leopard populations in multiple countries and mountain ranges.
  • Delivered remote ‘nature in our backyard’ education programs to children living in snow leopard habitats.
  • Vaccinated over 200,000 livestock against diseases as part of SLT’s snow leopard friendly livestock vaccination program.
  • Published 18 papers in international science journals, completed three policy documents, and delivered training programs to more than 100 conservationists around the world using online platforms.

Snow Leopards at Stone Zoo

There are about 600 snow leopards living in zoos around the world. Among them are Stone Zoo's snow leopards, 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.

With their thick, cream-colored coats and gray-black spots, snow leopards camouflage so well within their rocky habitat high in the Himalayas that they are known as the “ghosts of the mountains.” With the ability to leap down heights of 60 feet, snow leopards are said to be the most agile of the “big cats.” 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.

Learn more about snow leopards.

What you can do

Snowleopard Zoodopt

  • 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.