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Tiger, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Snow Leopard

Snow LeopardAble to leap 50 feet horizontally! Able to jump 20 feet vertically! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a snow leopard! This species, like the clouded leopard, is one of those that is somewhere between the small cats and the great cats in that it can't purr like the small cats and it can't roar like the true great cats. It makes a happy sound similar to the tiger's chuffing.

Its greatest threats are the hunting of its main prey species in the mountains, and the poisoning of other of its prey species, leaving the snow leopard with out a means of sustaining itself. There is also a demand now for snow leopard bones in traditional Chinese medicine as a substitute for tiger bones. Unfortunately, there is still a demand for fur coats from snow leopard skins in some countries, but luckily that has greatly diminished. At one time here in the US, a coat from a snow leopard sold for up to $50,000.00.

Zoological name: Panthera uncia

Species: The Snow Leopard are a single species - There have been some attempt to recognize different sub-species of snow leopard. No subspecies of snow leopard are recognised, insufficient information exists to determine significant differences between wild populations.

Presence on the planet: Snow leopards live in the mountain regions of central Asia. Their habitat consists of alpine meadows and rocky areas from the Hindu Kush, the Karakorum, southwest Ladakh, and Kashmir up onto the Tibetan plateau and north to the Pamirs, Tien Shan, the Altai and Sayan mountains and the Russo-Mongolian border; and east to Nepal, Bhutan and the Gansu, Quinghai and Sichuan provinces of China. They are found as far east as western Baikal in Siberia.
Snow Leopard
Habitat: The snow leopard ranges includes alpine meadows, treeless rocky mountains and rhododendron forests. Most of their range occurs in Tibet and other parts of China associated with steep rocky slopes, with arid shrub land, grassland or steppe vegetation. Occasionally, in parts of their habitats they visit open coniferous forests, but generally avoid dense forests. They are found at high elevations of 3000-4500 meters (9800 ft ? 14800 ft.), and even higher in the Himalayas.

Physical appearance: Snow leopards are generally smaller than true leopards, and their tails are characteristically much longer. Their heads are notably more rounded than those of common leopards. Females are smaller than males.

Physically, snow leopards are completely adapted to moving in a montane environment. Their feet act like large snowshoes and their legs are designed for jumping. The hind legs are longer than the fore legs. Snow leopards have very large nasal cavities to enable them to efficiently utilise the oxygen in the thin, cold and dry air of high altitudes.

Snow leopards' eyes have round pupils unlike domestic and the other small cats. Anterior upper premolars are present. Panthera cats have cartilaginous portions in their hyoid apparatus, a series of skeletal elements which support the base of the tongue. In the smaller cats, the hyoid is completely ossified or bony.

Diet: The snow leopard eats wild sheep, wild boars, gazelles, hares, markhor, bobak, tahr, marmots, mice and deer. The snow leopard is a carnivore, which means that it eats meat. The snow leopard can eat an animal three times the size of itself. The male eats the prey it kills; if he sees his family, he will back off and leave as they eat. The snow leopard will drag the carcass of a large animal to its marked territory and eat it over several days.

Snow Leopard Conservation status: Snow leopard fur is extremely beautiful, as a consequence, it is very much in demand. Persecution in conjunction with low population densities, habitat destruction and local animosity, is taking them near to extinction.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) regard them as Endangered and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have listed them on Appendix I, prohibiting all international commerce.

Life span: 21 years

Conservation Measures: Included on CITES Appendix I. U. uncia is also protected by national legislation across most of its range (Nowell and Jackson 1996), with hunting bans in place in Bhutan (only in protected areas, which cover most of snow leopard range in this country), China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Fun Facts
Unlike other large cats, snow leopards can't roar. Their vocal tract lacks the thick pad of elastic tissue that enables other cats to roar.
A snow leopard's eye color -- pale green or gray -- is very unusual for cats.
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