Threats to Snow Leopards

For thousands of years, snow leopards were king of the mountains surviving off an abundant habitat rich with prey. However, over the last 100 years the threats facing snow leopards have continued to grow in line with the global population explosion and they are now listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

As their sole predator, humans pose the greatest threat to snow leopard populations and their habitats. Retaliatory killings from farmers over livestock predation and habitat fragmentation through land use change are pushing snow leopard populations closer and closer towards extinction.

Learn more about snow leopards on our facts page.

Why are snow leopards endangered?

Scientists believe that between as low as 3,500 – 6,500 snow leopards remain in the wild today.

However, little is actually known about this elusive species and surveying them is extremely challenging due to the extreme and remote terrain in which they live.

Despite being downlisted to ‘vulnerable’ from ‘endangered’ under the IUCN Red List.

Habitat loss threatens snow leopards

Human populations have doubled in the last 40 years resulting in rapid human settlement and agricultural expansion. This loss of habitat has resulted in a decrease in prey populations with devastating consequences to snow leopards.

Mining and Land Development

Mining and land development in snow leopard habitats pose serious threats to the survival of snow leopard populations in the wild. 

Snow leopards are highly sensitive animals and rely on mountain ecosystems for their survival. As large-scale development and mining activities increase, snow leopard habitats (and their prey species) are being reduced destroying the very ecosystem which they rely on to survive.

Climate Change:

In the last few decades, we have already begun to witness an increase in extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding, heatwaves and storms as human-induced carbon emissions continue to grow at alarming rates and natural carbon sinks are destroyed.

Climate change is a very real environmental problem with the scale and scope to affect various ecosystems causing famine, reductions in prey species, access to water, changes in migratory patterns and increases in human wildlife conflict.

Climate change poses one of the largest threats to snow leopard populations in the 21st Century and, if left unchecked, could have serious implications on the survival of this iconic species.

Illegal wildlife trade – a threat to snow leopards

The killing and capture of snow leopards for the illegal wildlife trade is a growing concern for wild populations.

Demand for their fur, which is used for rugs and luxury décor, and their bones and organ parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicines, continue to drive population declines.

The human-wildlife conflict

As snow leopard habitats and prey populations are reduced, snow leopards often turn to livestock for food. Humans will often kill snow leopards in retaliation for this as their livelihoods rely on their herds. David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation is working to mitigate the human-wildlife conflict, read here.

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