Tag Archives: leopard

What is the Snow Leopard’s Biggest Threat?

There isn’t a poaching crisis for these big cats, unlike their feline fellows in Africa. But climate change is a real threat.

Snow leopards live in rocky mountain ranges in Central Asia and this high-altitude habitat is very, very vulnerable to rising temperatures. If action is not taken, more than one third of the snow leopards’ habitat will become unsuitable to them.

The snow leopard population has decreased by 20% in the past 16 years, with just 4,000 left in the wild. The big cats already face threats from human conflict and climate change only exacerbates this decline.

As more habitat becomes available, humans can expand and encroach on the mountains, which results in a smaller hunting range for the leopards. Conservationists are also concerned that climate change will result in more killing of snow leopards, to prevent or retaliate against any conflict with livestock.


 
Furthermore, these mountains not only provide a home for snow leopards, but they also provides water for more than 330 million of people. Climate change could have serious impacts on the water flow from the mountains, threatening the livelihoods of all those people depending on it.

WWF Global Snow Leopard Leader, and coordinator of WWF’s first ever global strategy to conserve the species, Rishi Kumar Sharma says:

“Urgent action is needed to curb climate change and prevent further degradation of snow leopard habitat, otherwise the ‘ghost of the mountains’ could vanish, along with critical water supplies for hundreds of millions of people.”

 
 
Featured image by Tambako The Jaguar / CC BY-ND 2.0

Leopard on a Log

Photo by Ganesh Raghunathan / CC BY 2.0

Leopard on a Log

Zambia is Taking Away Its Ban on Hunting Lions and Leopards

It’s the lives of lions and leopards versus the livelihoods of local people.

This May, Zambia lifted its 2013 ban on hunting big cats because it was affecting wildlife resources and the lives of people, especially in the game management field. Profits from hunting these animals are expected to benefit both.

The ban was imposed in January 2013 to help declining lion populations caused by hunting, over-harvesting and habitat loss. Then, the population was estimated to be between 2,500 and 4,700, and both lions and leopards were facing their biggest threat since the 1980s. President of Green party of Zambia Peter Sinkamba told the Lusaka Times:

“We all know that the number of lions and other big cat species in Zambia’s major parks is depleted and limited due to poaching and other anthropogenic activities…Much as we are aware that the PF [Patriotic Front] government is facing serious budget deficit challenges, it is extremely outrageous to resort to unleashing safari hunters on to limited populations of big cat species, regardless of the fact that safari hunting is allegedly most profitable. This type of approach is definitely awful. Posterity will judge our generation harshly for having been responsible for depletions of rhinos, black lechwes and other species.”

Photo by Abir Anwar / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Abir Anwar / CC BY 2.0

In lieu of the ban, Zambia will adopt similar regulatory methods to those currently used in other countries like Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Leopard hunting resumes this year, in the 2015-16 season, while lion hunting cannot resume until 2016-17 – and both with very cautionary quotas, according to Tourism and arts minister Jean Kapata.

After visiting Zambia’s largest national park, American ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz called for protection of wildlife:

“Zambia has the chance to benefit from wildlife tourism for generations to come if conservation efforts are successful. The poaching crisis in southern Africa is a growing international concern.”

 
 
Featured image by Tambako The Jaguar / CC BY-ND 2.0

World’s Most Endangered Big Cat May Be Coming Back From the Brink of Extinction

In 2007, the Amur leopard population dropped to just 40 adults – a dangerously low number that indicated they were on the edge of extinction.

But according to a 2014 census, the population appears to have doubled as 80 or more leopards were counted, with some even repopulating part of its historic range in China. The census was conducted over two years by federal nature reserve Land of the Leopard National Park, located on Russia’s far southeastern border shared with China. Using cameras, researchers were able to analyze and identify individual leopards.

Photo by flickrfavorites / CC BY 2.0
Photo by flickrfavorites / CC BY 2.0

The Amur leopard is a subspecies of the well-known leopard of the African savannas, who is adapted to a cold and snowy climate. It was once native to a wide range of eastern China, eastern Russia and the Korean Peninsula.

But poaching and habitat loss have drastically decreased the species’ numbers in the 20th century. By 1996, the IUCN Red List declared the Amur leopard critically endangered, as they were extinct from the Koreas, functionally extinct in China and existed in only small numbers Russia.

But this recent rise in the leopard’s numbers is a testament to Russia’s commitment over the last few years to saving the animal from extinction. In 2012, the Russian government created the Land of the Leopard National Park by combining three other smaller protected areas with a nearby unprotected land. It’s 1,011 square miles of forest habitat for Amur leopards and Siberian tigers, along with the deer and boar they prey on. Russia has also strengthened penalties for poaching.

Wildlife biologist collaborating with Russian scientists and conservationists in the region Jonathan Slaght says:

“There could in fact be 80, but more likely the number is a little bit less,” he said, because some leopards are likely to be moving between Russia and China and encountering the networks of camera traps on both sides of the border. What needs to happen, to evaluate that number of 80, is to join the Chinese data to the Russian data. It’s looking like both sides are willing to do one of these unified database analyses.”

Featured image by Tim Strater / CC BY-SA 2.0