Cats are like Puzzle Boxes::Snow Leopard

I was fortunate to get up-close-and-personal with a snow leopard many, many years ago at a place in Redwood Shores, CA, known as Marine World/Africa USA. They had one show in a very small amphitheater in which “animal ambassadors” were the stars. One of those stars was a blind Snow leopard named Tasha. Those shows were my favorites and I never missed a chance to go. While walking around the park afterwards we found ourselves next to her enclosure. Although we couldn’t get close enough to touch her (That’s what the Animal Ambassador show was all about.) we could admire her beauty and call to her from the other side of the fence. I will never forget that brief encounter with the beautiful Tasha.

October 23 is
International Snow Leopard Day

The Snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is the seventh largest cat in the world and is native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. The cat is widely used in heraldry and as an emblem in Central Asia; and is the state animal of Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh in India.

Black spots and rosettes on white-to-grayish fur helps the Snow leopard blend into its environment. It makes for the purrr-fect camouflage. Snow leopards have an elevated forehead with small rounded ears, and a vertical chin. Their muzzle is short with large nasal cavities and the eyes range from pale green to grey. They possess a stocky, short-legged body with incredibly dense fur, wide paws, and a luxuriously long, thick tail.

Although their closest relative is the Tiger, Snow leopards cannot roar. But they do hiss, chuff, meow, growl, and wail – and can even purr when exhaling.

The Snow leopard is capable of killing most animals in its range, with the probable exception of the adult male yak. Except when on the prowl for a mate, they are solitary. (Like most felines.) Snow leopards become sexually mature at two to three years, and a female usually produces two to three cubs in a litter. They normally live 15–18 years in the wild, but in captivity they can live for up to 25 years.

Snow leopards are listed as VULNERABLE on the IUCN Red List with their populations declining in the wild; and classified as an Appendix I Endangered Species by CITES (which means international trade is prohibited). The Snow leopard has been listed as threatened with extinction in Schedule I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals since 1985.

In India, the Snow leopard is granted the highest level of protection under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 where hunting is sentenced with imprisonment of 3–7 years. In Nepal, it has been legally protected since 1973, with penalties of 5–15 years in prison and a fine for poaching and trading it. Since 1978, it has been listed in the Soviet Union’s Red Data Book of the Russian Federation as threatened with extinction. Hunting Snow leopards has been prohibited in Afghanistan since 1986. In China, Snow leopards have been protected by law since 1989 (hunting and trading Snow leopards or their body parts constitute a criminal offence that is punishable by the confiscation of property, a fine and a sentence of at least 10 years in prison) and has been protected in Bhutan since 1995. In 1984, The Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan® (SSP) was initiated; and by 1986, American zoos housed 234 of these remarkable cats.

THREATS: Poaching and illegral trade of skins and body parts (for use in Chinese and Mongolian pseudo-medicines); habitat loss; and human-wildlife conflict.

In the end we will conserve only what we love,
we will love only what we understand,
and we understand only what we are taught.

– Baba Dioum

Snow Leopard Conservancy
Snow Leopard Trust
Snow Leopard (WWF)
Snow leopard (Wikipedia)

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