Home Species We Protect Snow Leopards

Snow Leopards at a Glance

With short, powerful limbs and a long tail, snow leopards are incredibly agile and are truly at home in alpine environments, to the extent that Nomadic Tuvan tribes honour them as ‘Irbis’ – the owner of the mountains.

Artwork by David Shepherd
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

There are between 3,500 and 6,500 snow leopards left in the wild


is the amount of Himalayan habitat snow leopards could lose due to climate change


is the highest altitude at which snow leopards live

Species Status and Overview

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are big cats, belonging to the same family as lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards. However, despite their name, they are more closely related to tigers than modern leopards. They also cannot roar, unlike other members of the ‘Panthera’ family.

Snow leopards are natives of the high mountain ranges and plains of Central and Southern Asia, with a range that spans from Afghanistan to the Himalayas and through the Tibetan plateau to Siberia, Mongolia, and China.

Snow leopards have long whitish grey fur marked with dark rosettes on their flank, back, and tail that camouflage them perfectly against alpine backdrops. They also have other adaptations suited to their unique environment – including small, rounded ears to prevent heat loss and large nasal cavities for maximising air intake. Even their noticeably thick tails have a use – optimising fat storage for extra warmth!

Behzad Larry
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Give a gift that keeps on giving

Adopt a Snow Leopard

“They are just such awesome creatures representing survival on the edge.”
Mandy Shepherd

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Behzad Larry

Protecting snow leopards in the wild.

Snow leopards live at the ‘top of the world’, counting the Himalayas as part of their home range. Unfortunately, as a pinnacle and ‘litmus test’ environment – it is one greatly impacted by climate change.

It is already estimated that snow leopards could lose up to 30% of their habitat in the Himalayas alone. For this reason, climate change represents the greatest long-term threat to snow leopards. Slowing down and preventing the impact of climate change will greatly alter the chances of snow leopard survival and enable us to continue protecting them in their natural habitat.

By protecting the environment they call home, we’ll also be protecting the snow leopard’s natural prey species – such as Himalayan blue sheep, markhor, and wild goats. Wild prey – varying from Siberian ibex to deer, wild boar, and even hares and hamsters, is always preferable. However, habitat loss and human encroachment means that in some areas (Mongolia especially), some snow leopards turn to livestock as an alternative prey source. Although this still accounts for less than 20% of the snow leopard diet, it can result in retaliatory killings (usually poisoning) by herders. We need to engage with these communities and provide support and education programmes that enable them to live alongside snow leopards.

The distinctive fur of the snow leopard also makes it a target for poachers. Their unique coat, which keeps them warm, is used as skin rugs and even clothing, illegally. Like many of Asia’s big cats, their secretive and mysterious nature means they have also been attributed with many superstitions, making them a target for the illegal wildlife trade. Just as with their close cousins, tigers, it is wrongly believed that their bones and parts can cure ailments, and improve stamina, health, and status. Snow leopards therefore need our help in stopping wildlife crime and poaching.

Adapted for Extreme Environments – But Not Ours

Snow leopards have evolved to live in some of the harshest places on Earth. At elevations of 18,000 feet or more, where we would barely be able to breathe – snow leopards thrive. Here, they hunt, live, and raise their families. Yet, they cannot survive the world we are shaping around them.

Through climate change and by encroaching on their already shrinking habitat, we are putting the future of snow leopards at risk. Help us protect snow leopards in their natural environment by adopting through DSWF today.

Behzad Larry
Snow Leopard - Behzad Larry

Snow Leopard Art

DSWF was founded by David Shepherd OBE – a renowned wildlife artist and conservationist. His legacy, and ours, remains rooted in the power of art to generate change and raise awareness.
Outside of our fundraising appeals, we use the sale of art to generate funds for the vital projects and programmes we support. Every year, we invite the world’s most talented wildlife artists to participate in our ‘Wildlife Artist of the Year’ exhibition and competition. From thousands of entries, hundreds of pieces make it to the final and are made available for purchase by the public.
You can also find select items, from original David Shepherd masterpieces to postcard prints, available in our shop. This is also where you’ll find our ‘Artist of the Month’ and ‘Art for Animals’ special events that often feature specific pieces centred around our chosen species.

How Donating Can Help

We believe that DSWF is a wildlife charity that makes a real difference. We’re a small team, which keeps our admin and operational costs down – meaning more funds go to where it’s really needed. We directly support and fund frontline projects genuinely making the world a better place for incredible and iconic species like snow leopards. That’s why we’ve worked with many of them for years, decades, or simply since they (and we) started. Through these long-term partnerships, our positive impact is measured in years and generations, rather than sporadic and isolated wins on the losing side of a war.

We, and these amazing people and projects, are dependent on your generous donations. From money raised through sales of artwork donated by our partner artists, to one-off and regular givers, nothing we do can be achieved or maintained without your help.

Your donations put new and vital equipment in the hands (and on the backs) of our ranger teams. Your generosity funds education programmes in schools across the heart of the snow leopard’s remaining range, inspiring a new generation of wildlife warriors. And the money you give has empowered women herders in Mongolia with representation and support, as well as the backing of an insurance scheme to cover livestock losses.

With your help, we’ve even secured convictions against poachers and exposed the illegal wildlife trade. We really can’t do any of it without you, so please donate if you can.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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All donations will help us continue our vital work conservation work to protect endangered species and turn the tide on extinction.

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