Although there are around 4,000 snow leopards throughout central Asia, humans have taken down about 450 specimens since 2008. These incidents are mainly caused by poachers who hunt the animals for their extremely valuable teeth, claws, and pelts.
However, herders also contribute to this massive killing because snow leopards prey on their livestock. A single snow leopard is capable of killing up to 20 goats at a time if they get trapped in a pen, and that is why herders are very hostile towards these big cats.
It is worth mentioning that rural communities living in the mountains strongly depend on livestock to survive because they cannot rely on agriculture or other food sources. Therefore, some herders might sell the parts from a snow leopard’s carcass to make up for the damage in their livestock.
The World Wildlife Foundation and the International Union for Conservation of Nature have joined their efforts to preserve and protect the remaining snow leopards because this species is endangered.
Even if the statistics show that around 450 specimens have been killed until now, it is more likely that this number is higher because the leopards killed in some remote areas are hard to detect, while the big cat’s trade is also difficult to tackle.
The good news is that the conservation efforts have paid off in places such as Kyrgyzstan, where the snow leopard population is significantly large. Experts underline that although just twenty-one percent of the specimens are hunted by poachers, around sixty percent of all leopards killed are sent on the market.
These findings indicate that some herders don’t kill just to protect their livestock but also to make some profit. Officials think that the best way to reduce the killings is better livestock protection living in all remote areas.
The Snow Leopard Foundation, Snow Leopard Trust, and the state’s government have created a hunting ground called Shamshy in Kyrgyzstan, where herders are allowed to come with their stock. This wildlife sanctuary contains large populations of mountain goat and ibex, the natural prey of the snow leopard.
According to director Kuban Jumabai uulu with the Snow Leopard Foundation, these new policies have had a positive impact on the snow leopards’ population, as their efforts will continue in order to spread this initiative across Central Asia.
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