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.”