Healthy populations of snow leopards indicates good health of the ecosystem that it inhabits. In India, snow leopards are found high up in the Himalayas, the source of most of our fresh water and 3 perennial rivers – The Ganga, Yamuna & Brahmaputra, lifeline of 500 million Indians. It can be said that without the snow leopard, the Himalayan ecosystem will be negatively affected and this will impact the health of the rivers too - source of our fresh water - without which life as we know it, appears impossible to visualise.
“Snow leopard balances the Himalayan ecosystem, the source of our life giving rivers – The Ganga, Yamuna & Brahmaputra”
Snow leopards are top predators in their environment, and their prey includes Siberian ibex (Capra sibrica), blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), argali (Ovis ammon) and marmots (Marmota himalayana). Without the snow leopard, the ecological balance would be disrupted. For example – herbivore populations will increase resulting in changes in the vegetation, that will affect other wildlife and also disrupt the important ecosystem services.
The Himalayan ecosystem provides food and other important resources for the many people who live there – including medicine, and wood for shelter, heat and fuel and grass for the livestock.
So, by protecting the snow leopard, it benefits the whole natural environment in these areas and the people who rely on it.
It is estimated that the global population of snow leopard is around 4,000 individuals. Snow leopards live in extremely difficult terrain and the fact that only 5% of snow leopard habitat is actually surveyed for population assessments implies that there is a lot to learn about this elusive species.
Globally, snow leopards are sparsely distributed across 12 countries in Central Asia, from southern Russia down to the Tibetan plateau, including Mongolia, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal & India.
“Because of extremely difficult terrain, only 5% of the snow leopard habitat has been surveyed”
Snow leopards are distributed across the 100,146 sq. km of snowy forests in five Himalayan states - Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim & Arunachal Pradesh.
Hemis National Park, Gangotri National Park, Khangchendzonga National park and Great Himalayan National Park are some protected areas where snow leopards are known to be found.
Habitat loss, poaching and increasing conflict with communities have seen the world’s snow leopard population reduce drastically. Climate change is now putting the future of their mountain home at even greater risk.
However, WWF is working to address these threats. With your help, we can make a real difference.
High up in the Himalayas, where food and water resources are scarce, survival is an everyday battle for local communities. With agriculture possible only for a short period of four months in these cold desert regions, people depend heavily on raising cattle for their livelihood and any loss of livestock on account of snow leopard predation creates stress and often is the main cause of conflict.
Some specific interventions are:
There are small changes we can make right now in our everyday lives to protect nature & endangered wildlife. When we all come together to make these changes, they can make a big difference.