Ounce, Snow Leopard Irbis, Léopard Des Neiges, Once, Panthère Des Neiges(Fr) Leopardo Nival, Pantera De La Nieves (Sp)
Panthera uncia, Uncia uncia
Cold high mountains
IUCN: Endangered C1 CITES: Appendix I
Estimated 4000 - 6500 individuals
Female weight: 35-40 kg Male weight: 45 - 55 kg
height & length
Head-body length: 90 - 130 cm; Adult shoulder height: ~60 cm; Tail length: 80 - 100 cm
Snow Leopards are valuable indicator of environmental health – their declining numbers is a sign that the places they live are also threatened. With only up to 7500 individuals left in the wild it is up to India, Nepal, and Bhutan to take the lead and create a regional conservation framework that helps protect the future of this iconic species and the Eastern Himalayas.
Snow leopards are highly adapted to their natural habitat of cold high mountains. With their whitish-, yellowish- or smokey-grey fur, patterned with dark grey rosettes and spots, they can perfectly camouflage against the mountainous rocky terrain.
The fur has long hair with dense, woolly underfur to protect them against the cold environment. Snow leopards molt twice a year, but the summer coat differs little from the winter in density and length.
Snow leopards have long tails, up to 1 m in length, that helps in keeping balance and as an additional protection against the cold to wrap around the body when the snow leopard is resting.
Head-body length: 90 - 130 cm
Adult shoulder height: about 60 cm
Tail length: 80 - 100 cm
Female weight: 35-40 kg
Male weight: 45 - 55 kg
What do snow leopards eat?
Snow leopards typically prey on blue sheep, Argali wild sheep, Siberian ibex, Asiatic ibex, marmots, pikas, hares, Tibetan snowcock and chukor partridge. Their sole predator is humans.
Where does the snow leopard live?Snow leopards are sparsely distributed across 12 countries in Central Asia: China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Mongolia. China contains as much as 60% of the snow leopard's habitat.
View Snow leopard range in a larger map
How many snow leopards are left?Click on the image to enlarge the graph
NB. Due to the elusive nature of the species, it is difficult to obtain accurate population figures.
What are the main threats to the snow leopard?The snow leopard is endangered throughout its 12 range states in Asia and is listed as 'endangered' in IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species.
Human conflict is a key factor affecting the survival of the snow leopard. Snow leopards are often killed by local farmers because they prey on livestock such as sheep, goats, horses, and yak calves. In some areas domestic animals can make up to 58% of the snow leopard's diet.
The reason for the snow leopard's increased reliance on domestic animals for meat is due to the decline in their natural prey base. The animals they would typically hunt such as the Argali sheep are also hunted by local communities.
Much of the population decline is also attributed to hunting for the much coveted fur and for bones which are used in Chinese medicines.
The habitat of the snow leopard continues to decline as inreased grazing and human settlements fragment the historic range of the species.
Afghanistan; Bhutan; China (Gansu, Nei Mongol - Presence Uncertain, Qinghai, Sichuan, Tibet [or Xizang], Xinjiang, Yunnan - Regionally Extinct); India (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu-Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttaranchal); Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Nepal; Pakistan; Russian Federation; Tajikistan; Uzbekistan
Mountain regions of Central and Southern Asia
Boreal forest, Temperate shrublands and grasslands, Subtropical and tropical high altitude shrublands and grasslands, Rocky areas
Video: The Elusive Snow Leopard
Rare snow leopard footage from India's remote corner
What WWF is doing
In Mongolia, WWF works with the increasing number of goat herders to build awareness about the plight of the snow leopard and reduce the killing of snow leopards in retaliation for killing livestock.
WWF supports mobile anti-poaching activities as a way to curb the hunting of snow leopards and their prey species (e.g., ibex, argali, and marmots) and works to eliminate the illegal trade of snow leopard fur, bones and other body parts.
Some WWF projects that support this work:
- Land of the snow leopard
- Conservation of snow leopards
- Community-Based Management and Conservation Models - Snow Leopards
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How you can help
- Adopt a snow leopard
- Spread the word! Click on the button to share this information with others via email or your favourite social networking service.