The magnificent Snow Leopard one of the world's most elusive and highly secretive animals. Usually living in solitary conditions, Snow Leopards are found in the harsh mountain environment of 12 countries - Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan with an estimated global population of around 2,500 to almost 10,000 individuals.
Snow Leopards typically live in areas with elevations of around 3,000m to more than 5,000m in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau, but have been found in areas as low as 500m in Russia and Mongolia. They favour steep, rugged and broken terrain with rocky outcrops such as mountain ridges and cliff edges.
Listed as 'Vulnerable' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Snow Leopards are under threat mainly due to poaching, illegal trade and a decrease in food available. Recently there have been significant investments in Snow Leopard conservation incuding the establishment of protected areas, anti-poaching measures and community education programs .Zoos Victoria awarded a 2017 international conservation grant to the Snow Leopard Conservancy to extend community conservation of Snow Leopards in Nepal, supporting projects that have measurable benefits for wildlife and people. The projects will identify economically viable, environmentally friendly and culturally appropriate ways for 600-800 marginalised households to increase income, while contributing to biodiversity conservation of Snow Leopards.
The Snow Leopard's thick fur coat keeps them warm in cold conditions and the rosette pattern on their coats helps them blend into the natural surroundings of the rocky mountains. They have a long, thick tail that helps them balance as they silently leap and run after waiting prey.
At about two or three years of age, both male and female Snow Leopards will begin breeding. Following a 90-110 gestation period, females will then retire to a sheltered den and give birth. She will raise her cubs alone, providing food and shelter, before the cubs become independent and leave their mothers once they're around 18-24 months old.
- The snow leopard primarily lives in arid, barren mountain areas.
- Snow Leopards have extra large paws to help keep them from sinking into snow.
- Snow Leopards have short front limbs and long hind limbs that are used to launch the cat up to 30 feet in a single leap.
- Werribee Open Range Zoo
- Healesville Sanctuary
- Melbourne Zoo