Tierpark and Zoo Berlin are making contribution to saving Snow leopards in their natural habitat.
- Project name
Snow Leopard Trust
Snow leopard (Panthera uncia)
- IUCN threatened status
- Project location
South Gobi, Mongolia
- Greatest threats
Poaching, loss of habitat
Monitoring the population, protecting the habitat, educating local people
Threat Categories of IUCN
In their element
Snow leopards live in the mountains of Central Asia. These timid cats favour habitats that feature cliffs, rocky outcrops and ravines. This gives them plenty of places to hide, while also providing a clear view of their prey, which mainly consists of Himalayan blue sheep, argali sheep and ibexes. The elusive snow leopard is one of the least studied big cats. They are solitary animals, coming together solely to mate. The females usually raise two to three cubs on their own, high up in the mountains for added protection. At the age of about 18 months, the adolescent cats leave their mothers and strike out alone. The latest studies from 2020 estimate the wild population of snow leopards at around 4,000 to 6,000 individuals.
The threat from humans
Habitat destruction and the associated decline in prey is gradually pushing the snow leopard to the brink of extinction. In addition, humans are encroaching further and further into their territories. Goatherds, for example, are leading their animals deeper into snow leopard habitats in search of new grazing areas. As a result, the domestic goats sometimes end up as prey. Since the loss of even one goat is a disaster for the herders, they occasionally kill snow leopards to protect their herds and livelihood. According to reports, in the period from 2008 to 2016, around 220 to 450 of these cats were killed or illegally traded each year.
The Snow Leopard Trust has been conducting conservation work for many years in the Tost Nature Reserve in South Gobi, a state-protected 8,000 km² area of Mongolia. As part of a long-term study, scientists carry out annual surveys of the snow leopard population using remote-sensor camera traps. The study provides a variety of data about the big cats’ lives, including territory size, reproduction and the range of young leopards. In addition, 32 snow leopards have been fitted with GPS collars and the dens of six females are being monitored.
Snow leopards constantly move around their territory, hunting and leaving scent marks for other members of their species. Researchers believe that their range depends on the availability of prey. Therefore, the Snow Leopard Trust also studies the leopards’ main prey, such as the Siberian ibex and domestic goats. In areas with a high potential for conflict between herders and leopards, the Snow Leopard Trust conducts educational work with local people.