It’s International Snow Leopard Day!

Snow Leopard Profile by Eric Kilby. CC BY-SA 2.0

Today, October 23, is International Snow Leopard Day! This is a day set aside to celebrate snow leopards (Panthera uncia), the people who live with them, and the crucial mountain ecosystems they inhabit.

The high mountains of Central Asia are now being called the “Third Pole” as a result of the massive glaciers they contain. These glaciers, in turn, are the source of many of Asia’s largest and most vital rivers. Protecting the snow leopard’s habitat is thus a matter of critical importance.

This has been an eventful year for snow leopards. First of all, genetic analysis revealed that there are likely three different subspecies of “the grey ghost” (as snow leopards are sometimes called). Second, leaders from all twelve snow leopard range countries met in Kyrgyzstan to discuss the fate of this mythic cat. The Snow Leopard Trust and its partners launched a petition to urge these leaders to strengthen their commitments to protect snow leopards, and the global community responded enthusiastically.

Despite this outpouring of support, a controversial decision by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) divided snow leopard conservationists. The cats’ threat status was lowered from Endangered to Vulnerable on the Red List, which is the most widely accepted metric for determining how close species are to extinction.

Some conservationists lauded the snow leopard’s changed threat status as a success, whereas others claimed it was ill-timed and based on questionable data. Snow Leopard by Steffiheufelder. CC0 1.0 Public Domain.

Some experts contested this move, saying it was based on questionable science and puts snow leopards at risk. As they correctly noted, the threats facing this incredible animal are increasing, and less than 2% of the snow leopard’s range has been reliably surveyed. This means that no one really knows how many snow leopards exist in the wild.

At the end of the day, the disagreement over the snow leopard’s population status comes down to one factor: insufficient data. We simply do not know enough about how the species is faring. Luckily, an innovative scientist is developing a tool to help fix that.

Dr. Natalie Schmitt has designed a DNA Field Kit that will allow researchers to test scat (poo) that they find in the field. If the sample is from a snow leopard, the paper Field Kit will change color. This will dramatically reduce errors in the field, making it easier and more cost effective to study snow leopards. The DNA Field Kit is a revolutionary invention, so please consider making a donation to support Dr. Schmitt and her work.

On this International Snow Leopard Day, why not take a few minutes to learn more about this fascinating creature? I have compiled a list of basic facts about snow leopards, and entering “snow leopard” in the search bar to the right will reveal many more posts about Panthera uncia (the snow leopard’s scientific name). I have also provided links to two recent news stories below, and attached this informative video:

Once you have educated yourself about snow leopards, please share media and information about the species with the hashtag #SnowLeopardDay. It will be a great way to raise awareness!

Today is the perfect day to support snow leopards, the people of Central Asia, and the mountain ecosystems they depend on.

Further Reading:

Cats on the Roof of the World – Prerna Singh Bindra and the Hindu Business Line

Turning the Tide: Mongolian Conservationists Create a Future for Snow Leopards – Snow Leopard Trust

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12 thoughts on “It’s International Snow Leopard Day!

  1. Very educational and informative! Gosh, snow leopards are beautiful wonders to behold! It would truly be terrible for such an amazing wild creature to be rubbed off the face of the planet. I pray the efforts of conservationists will prevail and they’ll be able to get the population’s numbers up to a more sustainable amount.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      I also hope we’ll be able to reverse the snow leopard’s decline. It’ll require more than just increasing their numbers though: we need to make sure their mountain habitats are able to handle the effects of climate change. That’s not going to be easy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Anything involving mother nature is difficult. Especially when the cause of the climate’s deterioration is due on the part of humanity as a whole entity. It would be an insurmountable task to realistically reverse or slow the course of climate change 😔

        Liked by 1 person

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