Thursday, July 19, 2012

Snow Leopard- The Stealth Hunter

Hiding in the existence of high altitude, wilderness and serenity, Snow leopard is one the most feared and endangered species.  These wild cats are well known for their reputation of stealth attack and precision.  Scientifically known as the “Uncia uncial” the snow leopard is found only in the mountainous region of central Asia and the Himalayas. The total number of this species is estimated to be from 4,510-7,350 all over. The snow leopard generally weighs from 35-55 kg (female: 35-40 kg, male: 45-55), and measures from 1.8-2.3 m in length from head to tail. The total potential snow leopard habitat is about 1,835,000 km 2 in 12 snow leopard range countries. In addition, some 600-700 animals survive in zoos around the world.

Their characteristics mainly includes short, broad muzzle, short fore limbs along with long hind limbs that provides agility in steep and rugged terrain. They have prominent dark grayish-black rosettes spots
with yellow fur on their body and a long tail that helps them to balance their way in high and rugged terrain and mountains. Likewise, they have big paws with sharp nails that help them in their attack.

Amid a definite reputation of stalker and killer, these big cats prey on availability. In wilderness they prey on wild sheep, wild goats’ deer, boars, and monkeys and other available animals, where due to lack of encroachment and lack of proper habitat these days they are found attacking domestic prey like sheep, goats, horses, and yak calves. The snow leopard-human conflict is one of the main threats to the species' survival because snow leopards are known to kill domestic animals. Encroachment of the snow leopard habitat continues due human civilization and confrontations are unavoidable.

Perhaps, their mating season starts from January to March and during that time they are found to be very aggressive and dominant. Most of the human confrontations are found in between the months where the animal doesn’t hesitate to attack. These big cats are hunted for their fur, bones, and other body parts that are used in oriental medicine. The open mountain boarder with china helps in poaching and smuggling that has been one of the prime problems in the conservation process
Likewise climate, change and global warming has also negatively impacted on the survival of snow leopards habitats which are highly risked with the melting snow line.

In Nepal, snow leopards are found in the northern region of Mustang, Mugu, Dolpo and Humla. They have been spotted in prominent conservation areas like Annapurna Conservation Area, Shey Phuksundo National Park , Kangchenjunga Conservation Area, Manaslu Conservation Area, Makalu Barun National Park , Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Sgarmatha National Park and Langtang National Park .
According to statistics the estimated population of snow leopard thrives from 350 to 500 in Nepal.

Snow Leopard has been listed as an endangered species by different international organization like IUCN and WWF where different efforts and protection programs are going on to save these big wild cats.. With high priority the Nepal, Government has listed the Snow Leopard as endangered species and under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (NPWC) Act 2029 (1973) any one found to be illegally poaching or involved in any act of killing the animal is ascribes penalties up to NRs 0.1 Million or 5 to 15 years in prison, or both, for poaching snow leopards and buying and selling its pelt and bones.

According to WWF Nepal, “Despite Nepal’s continual effort to save the snow leopard, its long-term viability is threatened by the conflict from livestock depredation and retaliatory killings, poaching, and loss of habitat because of high density of livestock in grazing areas. The snow leopard-human conflict is one of the main threats to its survival because it is known to kill sheep, goats, horses, and yak calves. Degradation of snow leopard habitat continues due to year-round grazing pressure following the closure of the Tibetan border some 30 years ago. As snow leopards are opportunistic predators, they often kill livestock because of high encounter rates and ineffective guarding by herders. Poaching is primarily associated with the trade in snow leopard pelts, bones, and body parts that are used in oriental medicine. As an illicit trans-border market exists between northern frontiers of Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, poaching has become lucrative.”

Similarly, the IUCN has also listed Snow Leopard as Endangered species  and the snow leopard is also protect under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1973.

No comments:

Post a Comment