© Klein & Hubert/WWF

About Snow leopard

Key Facts

  • Common Name:

    Snow Leopard

  • Scientific Name:

    Panthera uncia

  • Population:

    Researchers estimate that there are between 400 to 700 snow leopards in India. A nationwide snow leopard population assessment to provide a better assessment is underway.

  • Height:

    about 60 cm

  • Length:

    100 - 130 cm

  • Weight:

    35-40 kg, Male: 45 - 55 kg

  • Status:

    Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List of the Threatened Species Listed as Schedule I species as per Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

  • Did you know?

    Snow leopards do not roar

The strikingly beautiful snow leopard remains one of the most mysterious cats in the world.
Highly adapted to life on the cold, rocky slopes of High Asia the snow leopard is a master of stealth and camouflage. Very rarely seen by humans, it has come to be known as the ‘ghost of the mountains. It has also become an icon for these breathtaking and critically important landscapes, which house a diverse array of unique high-altitude species and provide critical ecosystem services for hundreds of millions of people. It is estimated that over 330 million people live within 10km of rivers originating in snow leopard habitat and are directly affected by the water flowing down from
these mountains.

Snow leopards roam across huge swathes of the region’s mountainous terrain, with
individual home ranges stretching from 200 to 2000 km2. This roving, the high-altitude cat is rarely sighted, and because it is so elusive, accurate population numbers are hard to come by, although estimates range from 400 to 700 individuals in India.

The Government of India has identified the snow leopard as a flagship species for the high-altitude Himalayas.

It has developed a centrally-supported program called Project Snow Leopard to conserve the species and habitats.
Currently, Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) is being undertaken by the MoEFCC, Govt of India. WWF India is working with the MoEFCC and the state forest departments of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim for this assessment.

Habitat and distribution

Snow leopards live in the mountainous regions of Central and Southern Asia. In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas, including the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas. The last two states form part of the Eastern Himalayas – a priority global region of WWF.

Snow leopards prefer steep, rugged terrains with rocky outcrops and ravines and are usually found at an elevation of 3,000-5,000 metres or higher in the Himalayas. Such habitat provides good cover and a clear view to help them sneak up on their prey.


In the IUCN-World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species, the snow leopard is listed as Vulnerable. In addition, the snow leopard, like all big cats, is also listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes the trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries. 

Several national laws in their countries also protect the snow leopards. In India, the snow leopard is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, giving it the highest protection status under the country's laws.


Snow leopards are considered medium-sized cats standing about 24 inches at the shoulder and weighing around 30-55kg. Their exquisite, smoky-grey fur is patterned with dark-grey to black rosettes which helps to camouflage them against rocky slopes. The species usually mate between January and March, a time when both sexes mark their territories intensively leaving signs such as scrapes, faeces, urine and scent-spray in prominent locations along their travel routes. The animal is most active at dawn and dusk. Like most species of cats, snow leopards are solitary animals, though sometimes male and female pairs might be seen together during mating season.
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