The magnificent snow leopard:
Snow leopard, the magnificent cat with its gorgeous fur is a mysterious animal. It is found in the Central and South Asian mountains. It can easily adapt to high altitudes, thus making the barren stretches and dry climates of the mountains an ideal home. The much sought after an animal of the cat family is an endangered species with about four to six thousand of them left in the world. It survives in cold climates with ease because of its natural survival gear, i.e. thick hair around the body and legs cushioned with fur, helping it easily adapt to the alpine habitat.
Where do you find them?
The snow leopard is most active during dusk and dawn. If you are looking out for one, keep the time frame in mind. After all, it is a crepuscular animal. Snow leopards are secretive in their movement and camouflage really well with their surroundings. They are found not in groups but solo, except during the mating seasons from January to March, where the chances of spotting them with their partner are high.
Worldwide: They are found in twelve countries like Nepal, China, Bhutan, India, Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan, and Mongolia.
India: In India, they can be found in the Western and Eastern Himalayan ranges, below 35,000 square kilometers, including Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. To be specific, they are found in higher altitudes of the Himalayas. There are bright chances of spotting them at Spiti and Ladakh.
Summer: 2,700 – 6,000 metres
Winter: 1,200 – 2,000 metres
Snow: They can move around in 85 centimeters of snow.
– Lake Baikal: Siberia
– Karakoram range: Pakistan
– Himalayas: India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet
– Atlai mountains: Russia
– Kunlun mountains: Tibet
– Hindu Kush: Afghanistan
– Tannu Ola mountains: Siberia, Russia
– Khangai mountains: Mangolia
– Tian Shan: Central Asia
National Parks in India:
– Hemis National Park: Jammu and Kashmir
– Gangotri National Park: Uttarakhand
– Khangchendzonga National Park: Sikkim
– Great Himalayan National Park: Himachal Pradesh
– Namdapha National Park: Arunachal Pradesh
What do they feed on?
Feeding on blue sheep and the likes, these leopards are not known for attacking humans. In fact, it’s hard to believe that they don’t even roar. These carnivores hunt for their prey and survive on animals that could be up to thrice their size. They eat sheep, goats, ibex, game birds, monkeys and hares. In India, they primarily survive on blue sheep or bharal. They have small amounts of twigs and grass as well.
These wild cats of barren landscapes help in maintaining the ecosystem by hunting down marmots who excessively eat the mountainous vegetation. Although recent cases indicate that they have started taking to domestic animals further down, as they have no food to survive.
The elusive element:
They aren’t really aggressive in defending themselves or their territories. They would rather leave the prey than attack for defense. They are hard to spot even in India. Barely 500 of them survive in the country today. They are generally confined to their territory. However, their numbers are depleting drastically. Besides the fact that their food is scare, they are poached for their fur and bones. A number of support programs run to protect the endangered species. Programs like Project Snow Leopard aim at conserving their habitat. Here’s hoping for the long term survival of the grey-furred leopard as human activities, hunting and overgrazing has only caused degradation of the territories and depletion of livestock.
Let’s keep them safe!