Nepal snow leopard threatened by climate change

Jul 17, 2012
A female snow leopard shows off her teeth at a zoo in New York. Nepal's elusive snow leopards, thought to number just 500 in the wild, are under threat from warmer and wetter weather in the Himalayas that is reducing their habitat, a new study says.

Nepal's elusive snow leopards, thought to number just 500 in the wild, are under threat from warmer and wetter weather in the Himalayas that is reducing their habitat, a new study says.

Changing are pushing forests further into the leopards' territory and they could lose 40 percent of their hunting grounds by the end of the century, scientists from environmental group WWF have concluded.

"Loss of alpine habitat not only means less room for snow leopards, but also has the potential to bring them closer to human activities like livestock grazing," said WWF snow leopard expert and study co-author Rinjan Shrestha.

"As grazing intensifies and the leopards' natural prey decline, they could begin preying more heavily on livestock, resulting in increased retaliatory killings."

Experts believe just 500 adults survive in Nepal's Himalayas, and few can claim ever to have seen the secretive, solitary animal sometimes referred to as a "mountain ghost".

The animal lives in high alpine areas, above the treeline but generally below 5,000 metres (16,500 feet), where they are able to stealthily track their prey, usually wild goat-like ruminants, deer, boars and some smaller mammals.

"If the treeline shifts upward, as our research predicts it will, we're looking at the faced with diminishing options for where it can live," said Jessica Forrest, a WWF scientist and another author of the study, published in the latest issue of .

The scientists used computer climate models and on-the-ground tracking of snow leopards' movements in the Nepalese Himalayas and its other known habitats.

They envisaged a worst-case scenario of the big cat's 20,000 square kilometre (7,700 sq mile) territory being reduced to 11,700 sq km by the end of the century.

Explore further: Leave that iguana in the jungle, expert tells Costa Rica

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nepal children to track snow leopard

Nov 08, 2011

Conservationists in Nepal have enlisted an army of school children to record the movements of the mysterious snow leopard, one of the most elusive predators in the world, a scientist said Tuesday.

Counting cats: The endangered snow leopards of the Himalayas

Nov 28, 2011

The elusive snow leopard (Panthera uncia) lives high in the mountains across Central Asia. Despite potentially living across 12 countries the actual numbers of this beautiful large cat are largely unknown. It is thought that t ...

GPS to track blue sheep and snow leopard

Nov 06, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists hope to improve the survival odds of the endangered snow leopard in Nepal by venturing into the remote Himalayas to study its main prey, the Bharal or blue sheep.

Recommended for you

Team defines new biodiversity metric

Aug 29, 2014

To understand how the repeated climatic shifts over the last 120,000 years may have influenced today's patterns of genetic diversity, a team of researchers led by City College of New York biologist Dr. Ana ...

Changes in farming and climate hurting British moths

Aug 29, 2014

Britain's moths are feeling the pinch – threatened on one side by climate change and on the other by habitat loss and harmful farming methods. A new study gives the most comprehensive picture yet of trends ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Moebius
1 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2012
Species like this one should be attempted to be introduced into similar environments, like our rockies.