Snow leopard | WWF

Snow leopard



Snow leopard (<i>Uncia uncia </i>) in the wild of the Altai Mountains in Mongolia. rel=
Snow leopard (Uncia uncia ) in the wild of the Altai Mountains in Mongolia.
© WWF / Fritz PÖLKING

Key facts

  • Common name

    Snow leopard

  • Scientific name

    Uncia uncia

  • Conservation status

    Endangered

    IUCN Red List

  • Habitat

    High mountainous areas

  • Populations

    500-1000 in Mongolia

Snow leopard in Altai Sayan 
	© D.Tseveenravdan / WWF Mongolia
Snow leopard in Altai Sayan
© D.Tseveenravdan / WWF Mongolia

About Snow Leopards

Mongolia hosts about 13–22% of the estimated global snow leopard population in less than 10% of the total range of the species.

According to the international (IUCN, 2010) and regional (IUCN, 2006) assessments, the species is listed as endangered species. Snow leapord is listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix I (UNEP-WCMC, 2006) and in the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Appendix 1.

The species is legally protected by the Mongolian Laws on Fauna and Hunting, where its hunting is prohibited (Badam, Ariunzul, 2005) and listed as very rare species in the second edition of Mongolian Red Book (Shagdarsuren et.al., 1987; Shiirevdamba et.al., 1997). 

Distribution

Density of population is higher in Mongol Altai and Gobi Altai continued mountains and lake vicinities but lower in Hangay and Khovsgol mountains. Distribution areas are vast, but populations are fragmented/separated.

Habitat

Suitable habitats of the species include high mountainous rocky, steep, cliffy slopes, narrow passages, ravines, passes, and alpine in Mongol Altai, Gobi Altai, and Hangay mountain range and mountain steppe that are dominant by grass and shrubbery plants. Suitable habitats of the species are overlapped with the habitats of some rare/endangered species e.g. ibex, marmot, Argali, and Altai snowcock that are main preys of the species.  Thus, the big cat, a predator/carnivore, is regarded as umbrella species in high mountainous areas. The species is one of the wide ranging individuals. 

Population:

Total population in Mongolia was about 1,000 individuals (Shaller et al.,1994), but it was 500-1000 individuals according in the survey conducted in 2000 (McCarthy and Chapron, 2003).

Causes of scarcity/rarity

In recent over decade, the heads of livestock were significantly increased and overgrazing was spread in mountainous areas. As a result, the Ibex and Argali, prey species of snow leopard, have been pushed away from their suitable habitats.  Thus, it negatively impacts on the species existence within its suitable habitats and lead to the habitat loss. Due to lack of wild preys (e.g. marmot, ibex, argali, and snowncock), the snow leopard attacks at domestic livestock.

Main threats: 

The snow leopard is legally protected in Mongolia, but the population is believed to be in decline because of:

  1. poaching for fur and bones  to be sold on the black market;
  2. loss of prey species as a result of (illegal) over-hunting of ibex, argali and marmots, and habitat competition with livestock;
  3. loss of habitat as a consequence of degradation (over-grazing) and fragmentation of habitat;
  4. retaliation killing for livestock raids; and
  5. lack of awareness and support of local people for the conservation of the snow leopard, its prey and habitat (Evans et al. 2003).