From PlanetSKI: Discover more about snow leopards

Sunday October 11, 2009

They are one of the most beautiful animals on the planet, but they are an endangered species. Here on PlanetSKI we set out to discover a little bit more about them.

We first wrote about snow leopards when we found they were being bred in captivity in a zoo in Wales and that this was part of a much wider breeding programme across the globe.

Without this there is a genuine fear they may become extinct.

Its estimated there are 3,500 left in the world and a recent survey in Nepal revealed the numbers have dropped to 300 – 400 in the area; a fall of 25% on the previous year.

Snow leopard habitatThe animals live in the mountains of Central Asia and Russia.

They have evolved to be able to cope with the cold, snowy conditions with thick fur, a stocky body, wide feet and small ears.

They also have a long tail, the same size as the rest of their body, that helps with balance as they walk over snow; they also wrap it round themselves like a blanket when asleep.

They live 15-18 years and can bring down and kill an animal three times bigger than itself. They can leap an incredible 14m when they ambush their prey.

Recently a camera trap caught a rare photo of a snow leopard in the wild in north-east Afghanistan.

For further video of these animals see this video section on the BBC wildlife web site that has some quite stunning footage of these rare animals.

For further news on the breeding programme in Wales and video of the new born cubs see this story.

Rodney Jackson Nominated for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize

October 7, 2009

Acclaimed animal conservationist vies for $100,000 award

INDIANAPOLIS — Rodney Jackson, Ph.D., is one of 29 animal conservationists nominated
to receive the Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation. Jackson,
a San Francisco Bay Area resident and founder-director of the Snow Leopard Conservancy,
has been nominated for his groundbreaking radio-tracking study of snow leopards in the 1980s
and his subsequent dedication to building the capacity of indigenous herders and farmers as
key players in conserving the species. Jackson’s grassroots approach to research, conservation,
and education is helping to transform this magnificent big cat from a potential livestock
predator to an economic asset throughout much of its 12-country range.

The Indianapolis Prize nominees’ work spans the globe, representing a range of species from
insects to mammals, and includes amphibians, elephants, bats, wolves and sharks, among
many others. The Nominating Committee will review the applications and select the six
finalists, who will be announced in the spring of 2010. The Prize Jury will then determine the
winner who will be announced in mid-2010 and honored at the next Indianapolis Prize Gala,
to be held Sept. 25, 2010, in Indianapolis.

In addition to receiving the $100,000 Prize, the recipient is also awarded the Lilly Medal, an
original work of art that signifies the winner’s contributions to conserving some of the world’s
most threatened animals. The 2008 Indianapolis Prize was awarded to legendary field
biologist George Schaller, Ph.D. Schaller’s accomplishments span decades and continents,
bringing fresh focus to the plight of several endangered species – from tigers in India to
gorillas in Rwanda – and inspiring others to join the crusade.

“Following in Schaller’s footsteps will not be easy, but we believe the current nominees are
exceptional,” said Michael Crowther, CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, the organization
responsible for initiating the conservation award. “These conservationists are all living an
adventure that battles the odds, achieves great victories and builds a future worth living in.”

The biennial $100,000 Indianapolis Prize represents the largest individual monetary award
for animal conservation in the world and is given as an unrestricted gift to the chosen
honoree. The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant
component of its mission to inspire local and global communities and to celebrate, protect and
preserve our natural world through conservation, education and research. This award brings
the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and
dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal
species. It was first awarded in 2006 to Dr. George Archibald, the co-founder of the
International Crane Foundation and one of the world’s great field biologists. In 2008, the
Indianapolis Prize went to Dr. George Schaller, the world’s preeminent field biologist
and vice president of science and exploration for the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Eli
Lilly and Company Foundation has provided funding for the Indianapolis Prize since 2006.

For more information see

Update on 2008 Indianapolis Prize winner Dr. George Schaller

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE from Indianapolis Zoo  

September 24, 2009

Indianapolis Prize Winning Conservationist
Fights for Snow Leopards’ Survival

INDIANAPOLIS — As Vice President of Panthera and Senior Conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, George B. Schaller, Ph.D., is relentless in his pursuit to save endangered species across the globe. The winner of the second Indianapolis Prize credits the award with helping him reach some important milestones in his work to save snow leopards in 2009.

Generous with his time and resources, Schaller used a portion of the $100,000 Indianapolis Prize to visit China’s Qinghai Province in May 2009 to  help initiate snow leopard programs supported by Panthera, an organization whose mission is to conserve the world’s 36 species of wild cats. Most of Schaller’s work was conducted in the Sanjiangyuan Reserve (“Source of Three Rivers Reserve”—Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong), which covers nearly 58,000 square miles, primarily at elevations above 11,800 feet.  In addition to assessing snow leopard presence and threats, the trip provided Peking University Ph.D. student Li Juan with the training she needs to start a snow leopard study this year. Schaller and Juan traveled more than 2,600 miles to evaluate potential study areas for the student’s research project, and Schaller will continue to mentor Juan as she pursues her Ph.D.

While in Asia, Schaller met with representatives from the Snow Leopard Trust and Shan Shui, one of the leading conservation organizations in China, to create a new collaborative snow leopard research and conservation program. These organizations signed a long-term agreement that will bring much needed expertise and funding to efforts to save snow leopards in China, where as much as 50 percent of the remaining wild population exists. 

“George Schaller’s extensive research, fieldwork and training have been essential to saving snow leopards in regions of China,” said Tom McCarthy, Director of Snow Leopard Programs for Panthera. “I can’t think of a better use of the Indianapolis Prize funds than teaching future generations the urgency and necessity of wildlife conservation.”

“The important aspects of this project for me,” added Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, “are its collaborative and long-term nature.  It’s George’s innate ability to bring people together and to forge alliances that overcome the short-term problems of political or geographic conflicts in order to serve the greater good that makes him a hero for me, and for the world.  It seems he has again worked his magic for the snow leopards.”  The nominees for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize will be announced on October 7, 2009. To learn more about Panthera’s efforts to save snow leopards and how to become involved, visit More information about the Indianapolis Prize is available at  
# # # The biennial $100,000 Indianapolis Prize represents the largest individual monetary award for animal conservation in the world and is given as an unrestricted gift to the chosen honoree. The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant component of its mission to inspire local and global communities and to celebrate, protect and preserve our natural world through conservation, education and research. This award brings the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species. The Eli Lilly and Company Foundation has provided funding for the Indianapolis Prize since 2006.  

If you are interested in using a photo of Schaller or the Indianapolis Prize logo, please see the following links: and

Protecting Snow Leopard’s Namesake Cats

This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2009-09-16 at 3:25 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is:

Protecting Snow Leopard’s Namesake Cats

By now you’ve probably gotten a glimpse at the big cat Apple has been touting as the face of its new operating system, Snow Leopard. But did you know that the real snow leopard [1] is a highly endangered species? With dwindling population numbers in the wild estimated to be between 3,500 to 7,000, this native of Central Asia is facing extinction.

The snow leopard is a beautiful cat with big paws, a thick fur coat, and a long tail used for balance in its mountainous roaming. Bearing the moniker Spirit of the Himalayas, its natural habitat encompasses the mountains of central and south Asia including parts of Mongolia, India, Pakistan, China, and other countries. Solitary animals, snow leopards usually live 15 to 20 years in the wild.

Since 1972, the snow leopard has been identified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature [3] as an endangered species – right up there with the panda, the blue whale, and the albatross. Today, their habitat continues to be encroached upon by agricultural needs; they’re poached for their pelts; and they’re killed by farmers looking to protect their livestock.

Fortunately, other people are looking out for the snow leopard.

Conservation Groups — Two main groups are currently devoted solely to the snow leopard’s plight. Founded in 1981, the Snow Leopard Trust [4] is one of the world’s leading authorities on the study and protection of the snow leopard. With a large staff spread over five snow leopard range countries, the Trust is attempting to affect change at the country level. In 2008, the Trust also began a long-term research project that seeks to gain a stronger grip on the issues facing snow leopards by better understanding their living habits.

The Snow Leopard Trust’s short term conservation goals include expanding the number of Mongolian communities participating in conservation efforts (Mongolia is home to the second-largest snow leopard population) and initiating a pilot program in China, which has the largest snow leopard population. The Trust’s primary long term goal is to help the snow leopard reach healthy and self-sustainable population numbers in the wild.

The Snow Leopard Conservancy [5] is the other main source of snow leopard conservation efforts. The Conservancy focuses on enhancing the stewardship of alpine ecosystems within communities that provide habitat (and easy prey via livestock) for snow leopards. The Conservancy’s stated challenge is to seek “ways of helping local people regain their willingness to co-exist with large predators.”

What Could Apple Do? While it is by no means Apple’s responsibility to take part in the efforts to protect its latest operating system’s namesake, the company has a great opportunity to help a worthy cause. Given Apple’s recent efforts to become a greener enterprise, embracing the snow leopard as its current-day mascot and supporting efforts to save the snow leopard from extinction would help underscore other green efforts like eliminating BFRs, PVC, and mercury from its iPods and computers. The financial planning company Pacific Life provides a good role model of a company giving back to its brand icon [6], which in their case is the humpback whale.

Most simply, Apple could just help raise awareness of the issue with an educational box on its Snow Leopard page [7]. Given that many people don’t even know the snow leopard is endangered, even a simple effort like this would go a long way.

Apple could also make a donation to the Snow Leopard Trust and/or the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Better yet, Apple could involve the Mac community in the effort by offering to match donations made by Mac users. The Snow Leopard Trust already has such a donation matching program in place with another donor. Through 31-Oct-09, if the organization can raise $25,000, any donation you make will be met by the Geyer Trust.

“That means doubling the impact for your gift,” Brad Rutherford, Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, told me via email. “Gifts big and small are important to us. $5 is enough for us to track a snow leopard for one day using GPS technology, and $1,000 is what it takes to protect one snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan for one year.

Some Mac-related organizations have already stepped up to the plate. Apple resellers Tekserve [8] in New York City and Monterey Bay Computer Works [9] in California have already contributed to the Snow Leopard Trust’s fundraising program. Tekserve donated the proceeds from the first 100 copies of Snow Leopard it sold. Select ASMC (Apple Specialist Marketing Co-op [10]) retailers are also helping out by promoting snow leopard “adoptions” in their stores. It would be great to see Apple join these Apple resellers and take an active role in encouraging and promoting the protection of the snow leopard.

What Can You Do? Don’t feel you have to wait for Apple to make a move, because there’s plenty you can do right now to help snow leopards. Aside from making an individual donation to one of the organizations mentioned above, you could “adopt” a snow leopard (via either the Trust or Conservancy), donate your old car [11] to raise funds, or purchase crafts [12] made by people living in the snow leopard habitat to help alleviate the economic pressures that lead herders to forcibly protect their livestock (the craftsmen must abide by jointly negotiated conservation agreements that protect the cats and their key prey).

Additionally, if you really want to get involved, consider volunteering for either the Trust or the Conservancy. The Trust in particular has noted that it needs volunteers to help expand their social network presence, develop presentations, write and distribute press releases, and host fundraising events.

And though it may seem small, simply spreading the word about the snow leopard’s endangered status – whether by conversation, email, or Twitter (I recommend linking to this obscenely cute video [13] of snow leopard kittens at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo) – can have a real impact. (And if you go to Woodland Park Zoo yourself on the right day, you might even get to see TidBITS Managing Editor Jeff Carlson and his daughter Ellie masquerading as snow leopards.)

Brad Rutherford was up front about the possibilities. “Support from Apple, its retailers, and Mac users has the potential to make a huge, immediate difference in protecting snow leopards,” he said.

So next time you boot up Snow Leopard, take a moment to think about those big cats prowling around the Himalayas, and hopefully, they’ll still be with us long after Apple has moved beyond big cat operating systems.


Forget Apple, Here’s the Real Snow Leopard

From and By Brandon Keim September 8, 2009 | Even as Apple’s newest operating system puts snow leopards on desktops around the world, the real animal fights for survival in the mountain wilderness of Central Asia. Declared endangered in 1972, between 3,500 and 7,000 cats remain in the wild. Their numbers are thought to be dwindling, though exact figures are hard to come by. Snow leopards are solitary, elusive and perfectly suited to their harsh homelands; researchers who study them can go for years without seeing one. In 2008, a consortium of scientists and conservation groups launched the first long-term snow leopard study. Using camera traps and GPS-enabled collars, they hope to gather basic information about the animals’ range and behavior, and use this information to better protect them. talked to Tom McCarthy, program director for Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust, about their work. Camera traps set beside known snow leopard trails, and triggered when an infrared beam is crossed, have captured thousands of images. Individual animals are then identified by their coloration patterns. Unlike older camera traps, the latest are digital and shoot every half-second or so, providing movies like the one above. GPS collars were first used in the early 1990s, but had to be abandoned. Their relatively short-range signals required researchers carrying hand-held receivers to follow the cats on foot. A difficult proposition in the best of circumstances, it was made even harder by signals dropping when cats ducked into a valley or around a mountain. The latest GPS collars are more powerful and reliable, and transmit location coordinates via embedded satellite links. “It’s essentially calling us three times a day to let us know where it’s at,” said McCarthy. “It’s giving us data that we couldn’t get any other way.” Movement records provided by the collars are providing important ecological information about the species. “We still have huge blank spots in terms understanding basic ecology and land use, how the cats relate to each other, how much distance they keep between each other, how they interact with humans how close they come to livestock,” said McCarthy. Another useful trick involves taking gene readings from their poop. “We can take genetic fingerprints of their feces, and identify individual animals,” said McCarthy. “But it’s still relatively expensive because of the cost of gene testing.” Along with technology, conservation strategies are also improving. In some regions, the Snow Leopard Trust has worked with villagers to sell their handicrafts to western markets in exchange for not killing the cats, which can threaten livestock. They’ve traded livestock vaccinations for leopard protection, and insured farm animals against attacks. The programs seem to be working, but data from the cameras and collars should give researchers a better idea of where to concentrate their efforts. Other threats to snow leopards include poaching, habitat loss and loss of prey. Even if people leave the cats alone, they can still disrupt the web of life on which the leopards rely. If snow leopards ever go extinct in the wild, they could be bred in zoos. But it’s not likely that zoo-raised animals will ever be able to survive in their ancestral homes. “Cubs stay with their mother for two years to learn the land,” said McCarthy. “It’s a real question whether you could put them in the wild. Asked how it felt to see snow leopards as part of a marketing strategy, McCarthy said that it was unusual. “It’s amazing to be able to be able to see these cats in person,” he said. “I spent seven years between studies, much of it in snow leopard habitat, and never even saw one. But as Peter Matthiesen wrote years ago, just knowing they’re out there is enough.”

Rare photo shows endangered snow leopard in the wild

A trap camera took this rare photo of a snow leopard.


By Wildlife Conservation Society

The Wildlife Conservation Society released two photos Thursday of a snow leopard, an endangered cat that lives in the high mountains of Central Asia.These photos were taken by a trap camera in Sast Valley in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor and sent to my colleague Dan Vergano,who wanted to share them with the pet community. Thank you, Dan. We’ll do more on wild cats and wolves in upcoming blogs.

WCS researchers are conducting ongoing wildlife surveys in this remote area with the goal of establishing a protected area. They found this endangered cat willing to strike a pose or two.

Trap cameras are placed in an animal’s habitat and are automatically triggered to go off when an animal goes by, allowing researchers to take photos without being nearby.

Snow leopards are on The World Conservation Union’s Red list of Endangered Species, the same endangered status given to the panda and tiger. Snow leopards are elusive creatures. Sightings are rare, partly because of how well they blend into the landscape. They weigh about 75-120 pounds (roughly seven to eight times the weight of a house cat and one-seventh to one-eighth the size of a tiger). They have large paws that allow them to jump up to 50 feet. More information about the cats and where they roam can be found at the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Snow Leopard Trust websites.

Peter Matthiessen writes about a magical journey he took on foot – what else? – in the rugged mountains of northwest Nepal with a wildlife biologist to look for these near-mythical creatures in The Snow Leopard.

Tiger, snow leopard numbers dip

SHYAM BHATTA/RAMESH KUMAR POUDEL KATHMANDU/CHITWAN, July 27: The tiger census conducted this year has put the total number of adult tigers in Nepal at 121.

Making public the report of the census carried out from November 19, 2008, to March 7, 2009, in 14 districts on Monday, the government said the tiger population slightly declined from 2003 when their number was 123. Similarly, the number of snow leopards has been estimated to have declined in between 300 and 400, while previously their number was estimated to be in between 400 and 500.

The counting of tigers was done using ´capture´ and ´recapture´ method that uses snaps taken by automatic cameras placed at certain places. The stripes of tigers, which never match with another tiger, caught in the camera are then analyzed to avoid repetition in counting.

Chitwan has 91, Bardiya 18, Shuklafanta eight and Parsa four tigers according to the census which found tigers even outside conservation areas in some districts.

The dwindling number of tigers and snow leopards should be taken with due gravity, says Deputy Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Megh Bahadur Pandey. Conservationists have been on a high alert ever since the Sariska National Park in Rajasthan, India, announced that it lost all its tigers two years ago.

The census carried out using employees of the government, the department, National Nature Conservation Trust and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal and 300 automatic cameras cost around US $360,000 (around Rs 26.1 million).

The counting of snow leopards was done in the mountainous region from Ganesh Himal to Rolwaling, Sagarmatha, Makalu Varun and Kanchanjungha with the financial help from WWF America, England and Finland. Published on 2009-07-27 21:01:01

One snow leopard a year lost to poaching

 14 June, 2009 – At least one snow leopard has been killed by poachers every year since the enactment in 1995 of the forest, nature and conservation Act, which prohibits the killing of endangered wild animals in the country.

Records until 2007 with the nature conservation department (NCD) show that 193 wild animals were poached between 1992-2007. These include 15 snow leopards, five tigers, 61 musk deer, a porcupine and a python.

NCD officials said that, although tigers and snow leopards are endangered species, poaching and illegal trade poses a threat to these animals, even in protected areas. The high commercial value of certain species attracts poachers, according to conservation officials. Prominent species poached for commercial trade include tiger, musk deer, black bear and Chinese caterpillar (Cordyceps sinensis).

“Poachers mostly use guns and arrows or set traps, which have even snared humans and domestic animals,” said NCD’s chief forestry officer, Dr Sonam Wangyel Wang.

To protect these big cats, WWF and local wildlife authorities are working together to establish anti-poaching units and strengthen anti-poaching law enforcement. In addition to poaching, WWF and its partners are addressing human-wildlife conflict, by setting up a compensation fund for local farmers, whose livestock is often killed by tigers and leopards.

Around 26 percent of Bhutan’s land is under protected area, but poaching is encouraged by demand from other countries. Tigers are particularly threatened as its parts are used in many traditional East Asian medicinal disciplines. “There also exists a commercial demand for non-medicinal parts of the tiger, most notably the skin, teeth and claws,” said Dr Wang. “Besides poaching, human/wildlife conflicts also result in the killing of wild animals.”

Officials say that the protected areas do not have adequate human resources for enforcement, making it difficult to implement an effective anti-poaching strategy. Data, regarding the degree of poaching and killing, is also generally inadequate.

“If law enforcement isn’t strengthened and strict measures put in place to curb poaching, Bhutan may lose valuable species of wildlife within a short period of time,” he said, adding that officials in the field must be equipped well to combat poaching.

By Nima Wangdi

Snow Leopard Released to Wild after Recovery from Sickness

  2009-06-10 19:21:24     Xinhua      Web Editor: Qin Mei

A female snow leopard was released back into the wild in northwest China Wednesday after receiving care for a respiratory tract infection. The big cat, which weighed 40 kg and was between 70-80 cm long, hesitated a few seconds after the cage was opened, then rushed to the woods in the suburbs of Zhangye City, Gansu Province, without looking back at the people who had taken care of her since she was found on April 29.  “She was exhausted and panting when she was found. We believed she was too sick to hunt from an infection and so she came into the village to look for food,” said Zhao Chongxue, a researcher with the Gansu Endangered Animal Research Center.  Staff added medicine to food and water for the snow leopard for 10 days essentially curing her, Zhao added.  The snow leopard wandered into a village at the foot of Qilian Mountain in Zhangye City, on April 29, prompting fearful villagers to seek help from police. The animal was then shot with a tranquilizer gun and put in an iron cage for transfer to the research center.  Xie Jianrong, chief wildlife official of Zhangye City, said the area where the snow leopard was released is sparsely populated and rich in prey. He believed she would live a good life there in the wild.  Hundreds of local residents came to see the rare animal Wednesday.  Snow leopards are usually nocturnal and live in mountains more than 3,000 meters above sea level.  The animal is listed as endangered in China, the same classification given to the giant panda. An estimated 3,500 to 7,000 wild snow leopards roam the mountains of central Asia, in addition to 600 to 700 more in zoos around the world.

Population of snow leopards rises in Kyrgyzstan

05/06-2009 07:44, Bishkek – News Agency “”, By Artem PETROV

Population of snow leopards rises on the territory of Sarychat-Ertash nature reserve, Kyrgyzstan, National Academy of Science informed the news agency “”.


There are reportedly seven animals listed in Kyrgyz Red Data Book of endangered species, two of them are leopardesses with cubs. “Growth of snow leopard population should continue up to restoration of it initial number on the territory- 17-20 animals,” the National Academy of Science said.


Note from the news agency “”. Sarychat-Ertash nature reserve is situated at junction of Internal and Central Tien Shan, in valleys of Sarychat, Ertash, Uchkul rivers. Its total area is 135 thousand hectares.