Various factors responsible for snow leopards’ declining population

Various factors responsible for snow leopards’ declining population

Stretching right from Russia in the north to Pakistan in the south and Nepal in the east, the greatest mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, Karakoram, Tien Shan, Pamir and Altais, are among the world's highest as well as least dense areas in terms of human population.

The top predator that roams this landscape is the snow leopard, but a new study has warned that this top predator is nearing the verge of extinction due to various reasons.

According to a recently published study by a wildlife trade monitoring network called TRAFFIC, up to 450 snow leopards have been killed by humans annually since 2008. The killings dragged the number of the felines down to just around 4,000 in the wild.

Body parts of the snow leopards, such as pelts, teeth, claws and skin, are sold in the black market, often by those who kill the felines in retaliation for their attacks on their livestock.

Lack of conventional prey, including giant ibex, markhor goats, argali and blue sheep, is forcing snow leopards toward areas where humans live with their livestock. New roads are increasing humans' access to the snow leopard's report habitats. In addition, humans' efforts mining efforts and other extractive industries are destroying these animals' habitat.

Insulated against the chilly climate by thick hair and fur, highly camouflaged snow leopards generally live at altitudes between 1,000 and 5,400 meters above sea level. Numerous UNDP-GEF funded projects aimed at protecting these at-risk felines are now ongoing.