Snow leopards, also known as the ‘Ghost of the mountains’, are found in Central and South Asia, in mountainous regions. They inhabit elevations up to 16,400 feet, higher than any other big cat. Their light fur, mottled with rosettes of brown and black, helps them to be camouflaged against the rocky, snow-covered landscape. Their metre-long tail can be employed for balance on sheer cliff faces, but can also be wrapped around the body to provide warmth.
They are solitary animals, except when they have cubs, which they care for up to a year. They are excellent parents, with the mothers lining a cave with their fur to insulate their cubs against the cold, which can plummet below -10℃. Their feet work like snow shoes so that they can sneak over the fresh powder without making a sound. This helps them to stalk their prey, which include large and small animals including bharal sheep, ibex and marmots.
They are skilled hunters and can take down animals up to three times their weight but, unlike other big cats, they are also known to eat vegetation as well as meat. They cannot roar like lions, instead they chuff, which is a low purring noise, which can be heard echoing through the mountains.
They are currently listed as vulnerable, as their hunting range is being encroached on by human hunters and farmers. This, in combination with climate change reducing their habitat by up to 30%, is forcing more regular interaction, which can lead to increased human-wildlife conflict. They are also poached for their beautiful furs.
They are apex predators and usually hunt alone at dawn and dusk. Their prey includes include large and small animals including bharal sheep, ibex and marmots.
Our snow leopard habitat can be found at the Himalaya Centre adjacent to the zoo entrance.
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
Distribution: Central and South Asia
Habitat: Mountainous regions including the Himalayas
Height: 55-65 cm (22 – 26 inches)
Length: 90 – 115 cm (36 – 44 inches)
Tail: Around 100 cm (40 inches)
Weight: 30-55 KG
Life Span: 15-18 years
Snow leopards are known as the ‘Ghost of the mountains’.
They use their metre-long tail to help them balance and wrap it around their body to provide warmth.
They are skilled hunters and can take down animals up to three times their weight.
They can sneak over the fresh powder without making a sound thanks to their specially adapted feet.
Unlike other big cats they cannot roar. Instead they communicate using a low purring noise called a chuff.
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