Snow leopard is a felid, highly adapted to the cold and rugged mountain ecosystem where it lives. Distributed across the mountains of 12 countries in Central Asia, approximately 4,000-7,000 snow leopards are surviving today and their population is believed to be declining. Due to the difficult terrain that it inhabits, it has been little studied and basic ecological and biological information about the species is still unavailable. Various on-going research projects using satellite telemetry, digital camera trapping, genetic data analyses and other state of the art methods are continuing to help us understand the ecology of snow leopards better. Snow leopards are solitary, though social interactions between males and females occur occasionally. Cubs follow their mothers for about a year before weaning away. Snow leopards have large home ranges, of the order of several hundred square kilometres. They primarily prey upon ibex and bharal, though feed upon a large variety of other mountain mammals and birds including domestic livestock. Snow leopards primarily communicate through scent though vocalization can often be heard around the known season of mating. Found in extremely low density, their populations are threatened by increasing threats of mining, poaching and retaliatory killing by local herders. Various successful conservation models exist and are being implemented with variable success rate across the snow leopard distribution range. Given the extent of interface with humans, community based conservation aimed at benefitting communities and wildlife alike have been found to be most successful in case of the snow leopard.
Keywords: Snow leopard, felid, mountains, central Asia, endangered, ibex, bharal, mining, retaliatory killing, elusive, camouflage, poaching, community based conservation, conflict, telemetry, camera-trapping, Panthera, vocal chords, diet, wolf.