Sanjib K. Chaudhary (sanjib) Published 2009-03-18 16:17 (KST) in
The snow leopards weigh between 27 and 54 kilograms, their body length ranges between 0.74 and 1.30 metres with a tail nearly the same length. They possess thick fur, which is pale with dark-gray to black spots. This aids in hunting by helping to camouflage the cat against the rocky slopes. Its large, broad paws act like snowshoes. The snow leopard even has a built-in scarf; its long, bushy tail that it often wraps around its body and face for added warmth when resting. This same tail helps the cat keep its balance as it leaps among rocky outcrops and narrow ledges after its agile prey. Its powerfully built, barrel-shaped chest gives it the strength to climb the steep slopes. Its long, muscular hind legs enable it to leap up to 10 metres — nearly six times its body length — in pursuit of prey.
Poaching for Pelt and Bones
The snow leopards are poached for their valuable fur and bones used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). As the demand for Asian big cat bones increases, TCM producers turn to other large cats such as the clouded leopard and snow leopard as substitutes for the tiger bones. The bone trade is rapidly replacing fur trade. Herders living along
As the natural prey base depletes, the snow leopards attack livestock and fall victim to retaliatory killing. “Loss of prey mainly occurs due to poaching of prey species like musk deer and Himalayan tahr or due to the competition for grazing grounds between livestock and prey species,” says Kamal Thapa, Research Officer with WWF. “Snow leopards get killed in retaliation by the herders when they attack livestock during times when their natural prey is scarce.”
Human-snow leopard conflicts often increase in the winter, as the cats follow the herds of Himalayan blue sheep down to lower altitudes. Food is scarce, and hungry snow leopards occasionally kill and eat domestic livestock. In an incident, a snow leopard killed 100 sheep and goats in its single attack in the
Despite the human-snow leopard conflict, people are now conscious that snow leopards are endangered and they should be saved. The herd owners have set up a common fund which is administered and managed by the Snow Leopard Conservation Committee — made up of members of the local community. This committee is responsible for monitoring livestock depredation trends, fundraising, verifying claims, and deciding on the appropriate compensation, raising awareness on snow leopards conservation and monitoring prey population. This is very much a scheme for the herders by the herders.
The Livestock Insurance Scheme has proved to be one of the important tools to reduce conflicts between snow leopards and humans. When herders are compensated financially for occasional losses of their cattle they are less likely to kill snow leopards in retaliation as they no longer have to fear financial ruin. This scheme has been used in
A Good Future Ahead
There are 350 to 500 snow leopards in the wild in
©2009 Sanjib Chaudhary©2009 OhmyNewshttp://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-03/18/content_11030856.htm