Photo: Steve Winter/National Geographic. Used with permission.
When there are as few as 3,500 members left of an endangered, and declining, animal species, especially one that lives in harsh conditions full of threats, killing just a few can do real damage. That's why environmentalists are cheering Mongolia's decision to rescind permits to hunt snow leopards, rare and beautiful animals known as "mountain ghosts" due to their elusive nature.Though the distinctive cats are rarely seen by people, humans pose serious threats to their survival, through illegal poaching, conflicts with herders, and habitat destruction. The conservation organization Panthera lobbied the Mongolian government to "reconsider their decision to issue permits that would allow the hunting and killing of four snow leopards, and possibly many more, in the name of 'research,'" the group said in a press statement last week announcing the success of its efforts.
As Few As 3,500 Endangered Cats Left
"Mongolia's decision to rescind snow leopard hunting permits is the right one for the species and the country," said Panthera Vice President Dr. George Schaller, who wrote a letter along with the group's Snow Leopard Program director urging Mongolia's environment and tourism minister to drop the hunting proposal. The group also gathered nearly 3,500 signatures in just two days for its petition to the Mongolian government.
The 3,500 to 7,000 estimated remaining snow leopards are found in 12 countries and are adapted to the harsh conditions and often subzero temperatures of Central Asia's remote mountain ranges.
Panthera's efforts to protect the endangered cats include carrying out ecological research, training field biologists, assessing threats, securing habitat, working with local communities to mitigate snow leopard-human conflicts and helping governments create National Snow Leopard Action Plans. The group is currently undertaking the first long-term ecological study of snow leopards in Mongolia in order to pinpoint the best populations and regions to target in its conservation efforts.
More On Endangered Snow Leopards
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Ultra-Rare Photos of Endangered Snow Leopards in the Wild (Slideshow)
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