Himalayan glaciers are melting fast and may disappear within decades, affecting as many as 750 million people downstream who depend on the glacial melt for their water, according to a new UN report. Rivers in the region such as the Ganges, the Indus and the Brahmaputra, as well as others criss-crossing northern India may soon become seasonal rivers, a development that has ramifications for poverty and the economies in the region, warns the report released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). In south Asia (Indian subcontinent), people in the Himalaya and Hindu Kush regions and those downstream who rely on glacial waters would be seriously affected. The average glacier shrank 1.4 m in 2006, compared to 0.5 m in 2005 and 0.3 m in the Eighties and Nineties.

March 18, 2008

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Russia’s snow leopard population declines by half

Source: Russian News and Information Agency    

NOVOSIBIRSK, March 7 (RIA Novosti) – The number of snow leopards in Russia’s southwestern Siberian Altai Republic has fallen from 40 in the late 1990s to 10-15, the director of the Gorny Altai nature preserve said on Friday.

Russia has an estimated total of 100 large mountain cats, which are in the Red Book of Endangered Species.

Sergei Spitsyn said the main reason is an insufficient number of forest rangers and rampant poaching, adding that local residents often see helicopters that are used for illegal hunting.

Snow leopards are hunted for their skin, meat and bones, which are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Weighing usually 35 to 55 kilograms, the snow leopard is slightly smaller than a leopard. Exceptional large males can weigh up to 75 kg. The head and body length is 100 to 130 cm, and the shoulder height is about 60 cm.

The total estimated wild snow leopard population is between 4,000 and 7,500. In addition, there are 600-700 animals in zoos around the world.