A World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released on the International Snow Leopard day draws attention that elusive snow leopards are more endangered than ever due to climate change.
Ahead of the climate conference to take place in Paris in a little more than a month, a number of sobering reports have surfaced. The common denominator: the effects of climate change. With global temperatures on the rise and 2015 becoming the hottest year on record, coral reefs are bleaching, snow lines are retreating and ice sheets and glaciers are melting. Wildlife species around the globe suffer from loss of habitat due to these extreme changes.
Among them, the WWF report states, the snow leopards will see their natural habitat drastically limited. The beautiful wild felines, also dubbed the white ghost cats, keep to the mountainous regions of Central Asia. It remains unclear how many more specimens still roam their natural habitat. However, it is estimated that approximately 4,000 snow leopards remain today.
The limited efforts to track the snow leopard populations in Central Asia have revealed that over the past 16 years, their numbers have dropped by 20 percent. With climate change on the loose, one third of the snow leopard’s habitat may disappear. In the 1980s, snow leopards have been classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Factors contributing to the decline of the Uncia Uncia species are the usual suspects. Poaching, hunting, and villagers killing the animals because they prey on livestock are on the list. But as snow leopards are limited to the snowy regions of South and Central Asia, climate change may hasten the decline of populations.
As the snow line is retreating due to the increase of global temperatures, farmers from these regions will take advantage of the cleared lands. Crops and emerging grazing lands for livestock may replace the habitat of snow leopards.
The white ghost cats will be forced to retreat further up the mountains. With an ever limited habitat, snow leopards may turn to the encroaching grazing lands for livestock in search for prey. In turn, this may lead to an increased rate of conflicts and more retribution from farmers and villagers will follow.
In a domino scenario, the retreat of the snow line is likely to affect water sources for these regions as well. 330 million people who rely on these water sources for clean drinking water are at risk. With them, the snow leopards will also be forced further away from their limited habitat in search for life-sustaining water.
The WWF report underlines the need for urgent measures as the elusive snow leopards are more endangered than ever due to climate change.
Photo Credits: DeviantArt
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