Snow Leopard

News Excerpt: 

Snow Leopard: Enigmatic big cat of High Asia now National Symbol of Kyrgyzstan.

Snow Leopard as a national symbol

  • The snow leopard is the mysterious and enigmatic symbol of High Asia with its host of mountain ranges stretching from the Altai to the Himalayas, and is now the national symbol of Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet Republic in Central Asia.
  • Importance in ancient culture: In the ancient Kyrgyz culture, the snow leopard was revered as a symbol of greatness, nobility, courage, bravery, and resilience. The leopard was the totem animal of the great Manas.
  • Ranges such as the Altai, Tian Shan, Nan Shan, Kunlun Shan, Pamir, Karakorum, Hindu Kush, and of course, the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas are home to most of the snow and ice on Earth outside the poles.

About Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia)

  • Snow leopards have evolved to live in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. 
  • Their thick white-gray coat spotted with large black rosettes blends in perfectly with Asia’s steep and rocky, high mountains. 
  • Because of their incredible natural camouflage, rendering them almost invisible in their surroundings, snow leopards are often referred to as the “ghost of the mountains.”
  • Its hind legs give the snow leopard the ability to leap six times the length of its body. A long tail enables agility, provides balance and wraps around the resting snow leopard as protection from the cold.
  • Habitat: The snow leopard’s habitat range extends across the mountainous regions of 12 countries across Asia: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable.
  • Snow leopards can't roar. Snow leopards have a 'main' call described as a 'piercing yowl' that's so loud it can be heard over the roar of a river. 
  • The snow leopard is not only a symbol of natural wealth and cultural prosperity, but also an indicator of the stability and health of the mountain ecosystem, which occupies 1/3 of the global territory. 
  • The loss of snow leopards in the wild will lead to the risk of disturbing the fragile ecological balance, which will have a detrimental impact on various animal species and on humans.

Global Initiatives

  • Snow leopard conservation received a boost a decade ago with the Bishkek Declaration on Snow Leopard Protection being unanimously adopted at the World Snow Leopard Conservation Forum in 2013.
  • The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (GSLEP) was subsequently initiated with the support of representatives from 12 snow leopard range countries (which includes India) and the international environmental community.
    • GSLEP, is an unprecedented alliance of all snow leopard range countries, non-governmental organizations, multilateral institutions, scientists and local communities, united by one goal: saving the snow leopard and its mountain ecosystems.