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Is There Much Hope for the Survival of Snow Leopards?

Little by little, things are looking up for snow leopards, the solitary, spotted cats found in the Himalayas and the remote Altai Mountains of Russia. In 1972, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the elusive large cats as “endangered,” meaning that there were fewer than 2,500 snow leopards left on Earth and that their numbers were declining rapidly. Now, after more than 45 years of conservation, their status has been changed to the serious, but less urgent, category of “vulnerable.”

More cats, but danger still exists:

  • Being classified as "vulnerable" means that there are fewer than 10,000 breeding animals left, and that there has been a population decline of at least 10 percent over three generations.
  • Snow leopards still face serious challenges, including poaching for their thick fur, and loss of prey in their high Himalayan habitat.
  • They are typically found at elevations between 11,480 and 14,760 feet (3,000 and 4,500 meters), and hunt at dawn and dusk, taking down prey that can be up to three times their own weight.

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