Conservationists Capture Rare Photo of Snow Leopard and Cub
Representatives of the Wildlife Conservation Society have snapped a rare photo of an elusive, endangered snow leopard and her cub.
The photo was taken in October on a mountain peak in Afghanistan’s Sarkund Valley. Roughly 100 to 200 snow leopards live in Afghanistan. The nonprofit society said this is the first image of a snow leopard mother and cub shot since it began work in the region in 2006.
The society’s efforts in Afghanistan are being supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
An estimated 3,500 to 7,000 snow leopards are roaming the mountains of Central Asia, primarily in China and Mongolia, according to the nonprofit Snow Leopard Trust. “No one has an exact count because snow leopards are so elusive and inhabit such harsh and remote habitat that they are rarely seen,” the trust says.
About 600 to 700 snow leopards are kept in zoos around the world.
Why is the snow leopard endangered? Reasons cited by the Snow Leopard Trust include:
• Snow leopards are hunted illegally for their pelts, which are used for coats and other garments. “Many of the poachers are local people from snow leopard areas, who often live on just a few dollars a day,” the trust says. “For them, poaching may be a lucrative source of extra income to help them feed their families.”
• Snow leopard bones and other body parts are in demand for use in traditional Asian medicine.
• Snow leopards sometimes are captured from the wild for private animal collections in Central Asia.
• Snow leopards sometimes prey on domestic livestock. Herders often retaliate by trapping, poisoning or shooting the cats.
The snow leopard was placed on the endangered species list in 1972 to help protect its dwindling numbers, according to the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife group.
“The long-term outlook for snow leopards – a flagship species of the mountain ranges of Asia – is uncertain at best,” says Panthera, a nonprofit group that strives to preserve wild cats.