Conservation issues

Conflicts over livestock predation by snow leopards.

Snow leopards and pastoral communities have shared the same space across the snow leopard's range for several millennia. However, snow leopards prey on a range of livestock species such as small-bodied sheep and goats to large-bodied yaks causing economic loss and creating conflicts. The conflicts often result in retaliatory killing by angry herders. Conservationists estimate that 55% of snow leopards are poached annually in retaliation for livestock depredation.
The conflicts require a multipronged approach to reduce and offset livestock losses and improve the social carrying capacity of local communities to exist alongside snow leopards. 

Depletion of wild prey

Like other big cats, snow leopards require abundant prey in their habitat for long-term survival. Even though livestock may form a large proportion of their diet in specific regions, their abundance seems to be primarily determined by the density and distribution of wild ungulates. However, the wild ungulates have suffered significant declines owing to the increasing competition with livestock, hunting and degradation and fragmentation of their habitat.

Augmenting the wild ungulate prey of snow leopards is one of the most critical strategies for the long-term conservation of snow leopards.

Illegal Trade in Snow Leopards

A major threat to snow leopards is poaching for their pelts, bones and body parts, which demand traditional Asian medicines. A solution for this threat requires enhanced ability to detect and curb snow leopard killing, community stewardship of snow leopards and greater cooperation between national and international agencies.

Impacts of Climate Change

Temperatures in the snow leopard range, including the Himalayas, the Tibetan Plateau and Central Asia, are rising faster than the global average. The climate disruption has an overarching influence on the snow leopard habitat and the people living there.
The impacts include the shrinking of the snow leopard habitat due to an upward shift in the tree line, degradation of rangelands upon which both people and wildlife depend, severe and unpredictable weather events and natural disasters.
The current approaches to the climate challenge include climate adaptation strategies for improved natural resource management and enhanced ecosystem resilience. 

Disease of snow leopards and wild ungulates

Snow leopards and wild ungulates suffer from several diseases in the wild. Many outbreaks have been reported for wild ungulates throughout the snow leopard range, where these free-ranging dogs are becoming increasingly common. The livestock significantly overlaps with the snow leopards and wild ungulates. The disease dynamics remain poorly understood.
Research is required as part of a One-Health approach that combines human, wildlife and ecosystem health to prevent emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Linear Infrastructure and Resource Extraction 

The snow leopard range has witnessed a rapid development of linear and mega-infrastructure. When poorly planned and implemented, these developmental projects can fragment the snow leopard habitat, increase snow leopard poaching and disrupt the movement of the species. Resource extraction as an unregulated harvest of caterpillar fungus and mining have similar negative impacts. 
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