Ghosts of the mountain
The rare and elusive snow leopard is known as the “ghost of the mountain”. Snow leopards are perfectly adapted to the cold and harsh environments of the snowy mountain ranges of Asia. With their powerful build, they are able to scale the steep slopes of their mountainous habitat. Their wide, furry feet act as perfect snowshoes. Snow leopards are expert jumpers, able to leap up to 15 metres, almost six times the length of their body.
Native to the snowy mountain ranges of Central and South Asia, snow leopards roam huge expanses and have been king of the mountains for thousands of years. Preferring steep, rocky and rugged terrain where they can be very difficult to spot and hunt more easily . They hunt a wide variety of prey, including sheep, mountain ibex and even smaller animals such as hares, marmots and birds.
The IUCN Red List has classified the status of the snow leopard as Vulnerable. Although it is very hard to measure precisely, there may be fewer than 4,000 adult individuals in the wild, and their numbers are decreasing.
The expansion of human settlements and increase in farmland has meant the snow leopard’s natural prey and habitat have dwindled. With dropping numbers in natural prey, they are forced to feed on livestock. In retaliation for this, farmers hunt the snow leopard in order to protect their herds. In addition to this, poaching has always been a threat to the snow leopard. Their beautiful coats have been much sought after in the fur trade.
Snow Leopard Conservation
Great efforts in protecting these magnificent creatures are well underway. Many organisations, such as WWF, are working closely with rural communities in an effort to reduce conflict between the snow leopard and villagers. The continuation of controlling and monitoring the illegal wildlife trade will allow the snow leopard population to recover in time and return as the king of the mountains once more.
Kiki is an award-winning illustrator and graphic designer. She studied in London and Edinburgh. Her beloved father gave her the creative spark with printmaking from age 6. Her inspirations are animals and the elements of nature. See more of Kiki's work at www.kikiillustrations.com
Writer and editor from England, Danny's passions are traveling, surfing and the environment. 'Free Willy' had a profound effect on him as a kid, setting in motion caring for the planet and always having an insatiable desire to escape. Danny co-founded and edits www.part-wild.com