The snow leopard is a famously mystical and elusive creature, known worldwide for its gorgeously pearlescent fur. The animal looks less like its feline brethren and more like a fantasy beast from ‘Game of Thrones’!
Snow leopards are native to the cold, barren mountains of Central Asia. Their lives are hard enough trying to survive amongst their ruthless habitats without us humans interfering! Unfortunately, there may only be 4000 of them left in the wild due to excessive human activity. Habitat loss, poaching, loss of prey, and climate change mean that this magnificent creature is now endangered.
So, let us look at all the things that make snow leopards special to remind us why they deserve to thrive.
Characteristics of a Snow Leopard
A snow leopard’s habitat environment is cold, desolate, and rocky- not what you would expect from an animal so cute and fluffy! These felines can be found roaming peaks with elevations between 3,000 to 5,000 meters in height. They can be found in 12 countries including India, Nepal, China, Mongolia, and Bhutan.
Adult snow leopards are solitary animals. That is why, it is so difficult to track them. The cubs, on the other hand, stay with their mothers for just 18 months, before they leave forever!
They may never reunite with their parents again; such is life in the mountains. Snow leopards only encounter others of their kind when it is time for the breeding season. However, even this has become difficult due to their dwindling numbers!
In captivity, a snow leopard can live up to 25 years. In the wild, this number is reduced significantly to between 15 and 18 years. Although such leopards’ cubs leave their parents after about a year and a half, they only become adults at two or three years old.
Did you know, snow leopards have their very own snowshoes! A snow leopard’s paws work like snow boots because they are fluffy and wide, so they spread the cat’s weight more evenly across the soft snow.
These large paws not only allow the leopards to move swiftly across the snow, but they also muffle the sound of their paws, allowing the animal to move undetected by their prey. The soft fur acts as insulation to protect the leopards from the bitter cold.
They have thick and long tails that are nearly a meter long in length. The tails help the furry feline balance upon the teetering cliffs of their alpine habitat. The fatty tissue of the tail helps provide energy in times when food is scarce.
These incredible creatures can leap an impressive 15 meters horizontally and jump 6 meters vertically. They accomplish this with their powerful hind legs.
The snow leopard’s signature white fur with black spots is not just an aesthetic adaptation but a practical one. The white fur helps them blend in with the snow, and the black spots add the shadows that create a seamless camouflage against the snowy mountains.
Interesting Facts About Snow Leopards
Aside from the amazing characteristics of a snow leopard, there are tons of other interesting facts about this majestic creature!
1) They Can’t Roar
Snow Leopards are one of the few big cat species that can’t roar. They have vocal cords that simply aren’t developed for the thunderous roars their lion and tiger relatives are known for. The call of this creature is more of a high pitched ‘yowl’ that is so piercing it can be heard from miles away.
2) They Aren’t Actually Leopards
Strangely enough, the snow leopard is not actually a leopard at all! These big cats are more closely related to tigers than to leopards. They are referred to as snow ‘leopards’ because of their black spots that look similar to those of African leopards.
3) Snow Leopards and Blue Sheep
Did you know the main prey of snow leopards is the Blue Sheep, found in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau? While this may sound like a magical fantasy beast to rival the snow leopard, the blue sheep has zero blue colored body parts! The leopards can hunt down this prey and live off of it for a week.
4) Snow Leopards Are Powerful Hunters
Snow Leopards can hunt down prey three times their own weight! Their powerful muscles and strong jaw mean they can hunt a large animal once and survive off its meat for a significant amount of time.
Unlike other big cats, it does not have to worry about defending its kill because it lives in the isolated mountain landscape. The desolate environment means it is very important that it can hunt well because who knows when it will reencounter potential prey!
5). They Can Walk a Marathon in a Night
Some snow leopards can travel up to 25 miles in a night. That is the distance of a full marathon! It is a testament to their incredible stamina and speed.
6) They Are Nocturnal
They are crepuscular creatures, meaning they are most active after dark. It is why they have their distinctive pale green or milky grey eyes. Like most cats, they have narrow vertical pupils to help them see in the late hours of the night.
7) They Are the Only Big Cats To Live in the Asian Mountains
They are the only member of the big cat family brave enough to call the icy peaks of Central Asia home. These ice desserts are a brutal and unforgiving landscape for any animal, but the mighty snow leopard has managed to survive and thrive within it. It is no wonder the snow leopard is seen as such a special creature.
8) They Are the Ghosts of the Mountains
Snow Leopards are often called the “ghosts of the mountain” because they are so rarely spotted in the mountains, spending most of their lives in solitude. Their ghostly white fur and glow in the dark eyes certainly don’t help! It is not hard to see why people called the snow leopard a ghost!
9) They Live Higher up Than Any Other Big Cat
A WWF study found snow leopards living almost 5,859 meters above sea level. This is a higher altitude than any other big cat has been recorded prowling at! This altitude is the same as the height of the tallest mountain in Canada! It seems they are also prolific climbers who live to such high altitudes!
10) They Are Blind at Birth
Snow leopards give birth to a litter of one to five cubs. What is remarkable is that each of these cubs is born blind! Snow leopard cubs open their eyes about seven days after they are born. After that, they depend on their mother for at least a full year.
How You Can Save Them?
We can clearly see that snow leopards are a special and important part of our ecosystem. This is why it is so heartbreaking to know that the species is endangered. Only 4000 of these beautiful creatures are left in the wild, and if we do not act, these numbers will keep dropping. They are endangered due to their wide use in traditional Chinese medicines.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to save our beloved snow leopards. To start, you can begin by ‘adopting‘ a wild snow leopard from the World Wildlife Fund.
When you adopt a snow leopard, you get to name one of them that the World Wildlife Fund monitors or keeps in reserve. You will receive regular updates about your new furry friend as well as: a fact booklet packed with facts, bookmarks, and fun stickers, a plush toy that resembles your adopted fur baby, and a personalized adoption certificate!
You can choose from monthly payments of 3,5, or 10 pounds sterling to ensure your snow leopard will be well cared for (as well as protecting the environment!). You can even pledge more than that amount if you really want the snow leopards under the Worl Wildlife Fund to live their best lives. You get all the joy of protecting an endangered pet without any of the responsibilities – what could be better than that?
Alternatively, you can make a one-time payment or donation if the monthly commitment isn’t for you. The World Wildlife Fund accepts any amount of donations, and every penny counts when it comes to saving our adorable snowy friends! No amount is too little when it comes to saving a species, so pledge your donation today!
You don’t even have to donate to the snow leopard fund specifically. It is equally as helpful to become a member of the World Wildlife Fund. This way, your money isn’t restricted to just one project. Your money could save these snowy creatures today and protect the rainforest tomorrow!
Not to mention you will still receive a membership pack and regular updates on the projects the World Wildlife Fund is involved in.
Snow leopards are stunning creatures, perfectly adapted to one of the harshest environments in the world. They are in need of your help, fast! For just a few pounds a month, you could help save an entire species from its doom. Help make a difference in snow leopard conservancy and donate your money today.
Click here to read more like this!