Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Snow Leopard

      Winter is slowly sneaking up on us-- and with that brings the snow. Some of you may not be thrilled by this, but one Nepali resident sure is--the endangered and illusive Snow Leopard. It is estimated that there are 4,510-7,350 Snow Leopards left in the world--350-500 of which are in Nepal. Snow Leopards can be spotted in the Mustang, Dolpo, Humla, and Mugu regions of Nepal. This beautiful white and black spotted cat prefers the high altitude region of the country and can obviously, easily walk in the snow.

      The Snow Leopard averages around 1.8-2.3 m in length from head to tail and stands about 60 cm. tall. Their infamous long tail aids in balance along narrow cliffs and mountain paths--as well as aids in warmth, as the Snow Leopard likes to wrap the tail around it's face. The average weight of a female is around 35-40 kg. and a male 45-55 kg. They usually live 15-18 years and females will have 1-5 cubs within 100 days of gestation. Their mating season is in late winter--and the cubs are born in late spring, early summer. Cubs are independent from their mothers at 18-22 months.

      These animals are quite territorial, which is why they can become dangerous to villagers--especially small children. One Snow Leopard claims about 12 sq. km. of territory and will hunt animals 4x their size. They also feast on grass and twigs.

      Snow Leopards are threatened in Nepal and throughout Asia because of poaching and loss of habitat due to increased grazing land for domesticated farm animals. They are often poached for their pelts and bones for Oriental medicine. They are also hunted because they prey on local livestock and sometimes even kill a small village child who wanders too far. There are now many Snow Leopard Conservation areas throughout Nepal and efforts are being made to destroy snares, traps, and weapons used to kill these endangered animals. Awareness committees are also now in place to educate the local people on the severity of the issue of poaching Endangered Species.

      Keep an eye out if you're in the high mountainous regions of Nepal and you may just be lucky enough to spot one of these beautiful creatures.

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