Scientific name: Uncia uncia
Habitat: Alpine meadows, sub alpine areas, up to snow line
Diet: Mountain sheep and goats also hare, musk deer, marmots, pheasants, mice
Life span: Up to 19 years
Young: 1–4 young/year; usually 2 or 3
Size: 27–75 kg (60–165 lbs)
Snow leopards live high in the alpine on some of the tallest mountains in the world. They have been seen at heights of 6,000 metres, which is only a couple thousand metres short of the Mount Everest peak.
The thick fur of the snow leopard insulates them from the cold. Their tails are exceptionally long, and are used to help keep their balance. They also use their thick tails to cover their noses and eyes when sleeping in the cold. They are excellent jumpers, able to leap 15 metres (45 feet) in a single bound. This ability is important for hunting prey, but also helps them move across gaps in the rock of the rugged terrain.
Snow leopards do not roar, the sounds they make are like a moan or a grunt. Little is known about snow leopards. Research in the wild is difficult because there are so few of them and their habitat is so inaccessible. In addition, they are active at dawn and dusk, a time when it is difficult to see them.
Snow leopards are endangered due to hunting for their valuable pelts, and the use of their bones in traditional medicines. Overhunting of the mountain sheep and goats makes their prey scarce. Hunting snow leopards is illegal, but some people living in poverty feel driven to it to protect their livestock or for funds to support their family. The black market sale of a pelt would provide enough money for basic food and shelter for one impoverished family for a year. The black market trader will realize thousands of dollars in profit for the resale of the pelt.
What is your zoo doing to help?
Species Survival Plan
The Species Survival Plan (SSP) consists of co-operative, coordinated breeding programs for captive endangered species throughout the world. Species Survival Plans are not a substitute for preserving animals in nature but are a strategy for creating healthy, self-sustaining, captive populations that can be reintroduced into restored or secured habitats.
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