The snow leopard’s range crosses several central and south Asian countries. With a total population estimated at less than 2,500 adults, snow leopards are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The snow leopard typically lives at elevations of around 3,000-4,500m in arid and semi-arid shrubland and grassland across Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. But populations are patchily distributed within this range and animals occur at low densities.
In Russia and parts of the Tian Shan in China it lives in open coniferous forest. Generally, though, it avoids dense forest, preferring steep terrain broken by cliffs, ridges, gullies and rocky outcrops.
The snow leopard can kill prey up to three times its own weight, and must kill a large animal about once every fortnight to survive.
It hunts ibex, deer, boars, marmots and other small rodents, sometimes turning to domestic livestock when wild prey is scarce.
Why the snow leopard needs help
Across its range, the snow leopard is hunted for its highly-prized pelt and bones. Despite its protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which makes the international trade of snow leopards in any form illegal in all signatory countries, poaching to trade bones and body parts for use in traditional Asian medicine is lucrative.
In many areas the fragile alpine habitat of the snow leopards is also becoming degraded and fragmented as a consequence of intensifying grazing pressure from increasing numbers of livestock.
The snow leopard is also persecuted because it sometimes preys on domestic livestock. This is partly due to a declining prey base, which has been over-hunted by herders under the misperception that the prey species compete with domestic livestock for forage. Occasionally this leads to the retaliatory killing of snow leopards by herders protecting their livelihoods.
As grazing pressure intensifies from an increasing number of domestic livestock, snow leopard-human conflict is an ever increasing threat to the snow leopard’s survival.
What we're doing - and how you can help
Snow leopards need a lot of space. This means protecting a sizeable population requires a large area where they can roam. For instance, we're helping protect the Eastern Himalayan landscape to provide large, connected areas in which the leopards can live, hunt and breed.
We're also working with TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) to help prevent trade in the snow leopard and its body parts.
And we work with communities to help manage the conflict between snow leopards and people. We help in the construction of predator-proof livestock pens, and we've helped set up community-managed compensation mechanisms for farmers who lose livestock.