A snow leopard dies every day... but we can save them if we take urgent action

The big cat, which prowls the higher reaches of mountain ranges, is fighting for survival as climate change and conflict with man threaten to wipe it out. One dies every day and numbers in the wild could be below 5,000, says the White Lion Foundation which has launched an appeal for their salvation. The global wildlife charity aims to raise £100,000 for a much-needed conservation project where their hunting grounds are rapidly receding.

“Snow leopards are in decline and are very vulnerable but we have a real chance to protect them if we act decisively and quickly,” said Shirley Galligan, a director of the UK-based foundation.

“It fills me with dread what could happen and we are all desperately concerned about the future.

They are gifts of nature and we need to protect them. What a sad world it will be if we cannot save the last remaining snow leopards.

The stark reality is that one is killed every day which makes for a bleak future but we do have an opportunity to save them. 

“We hope Sunday Express readers will get behind our campaign so that we can still have this elusive and beautiful animal on the planet.”

Snow leopards exist in remote regions above 9,900ft and are rarely seen by man. They live solitary existences apart from mating and then the female stays with the cubs for 18 to 22 months. They can live for 15 to 18 years in the wild. 

Rare footage of them was shown by Planet Earth host Sir David Attenborough, left, in one of the most popular episodes. 

The foundation’s project will see cameras placed in remote areas of the Karakoram Mountains, which stretch more than 300 miles across India, Pakistan and China, to monitor populations and build intelligence on their hunting and behavioural habits. 

It will also support villagers by building corrals to protect their livestock from snow leopard attacks and provide a compensation scheme for loss. 

“Snow leopards are increasingly coming into contact and conflict with man and any approach to saving the species needs to take into account that they need their domains protected and villagers also need their livelihoods protected. We are working with them so they can exist in harmony,” Ms Galligan added. 

Herders are taking sheep higher into the Karakoram, which features the world’s second highest mountain K2, in Pakistan, while new developments and roads shake centuries-old eco systems. 

Snow leopards feed on sheep, ibex and smaller mammals but find it hard to locate prey for their young so they can attack livestock of villagers, threatening a perilous economy. 

“It is difficult to eke out an existence in this rugged, inhospitable region at 9,900 to 16,500 feet,” said Dr John Knight, a vet and foundation boss. “It has got worse for the snow leopard. Man is encroaching and they are being poached for their bones that are used for traditional Chinese medicine. 

“Local people have asked us to help and this is a collaboration with them.

We want them to understand the value of wildlife and we know that supporting local communities does help stabilise snow leopard numbers. This is crucial for wider reasons as snow leopards are an umbrella species so not acting puts other animals at risk.” 

The foundation has installed cameras in areas around five large villages. 

The Snow Leopard Appeal, which goes live today, features an e-adoption scheme from £3 a month and a soft toy snow leopard for £24.99. For more details visit thewhitelion.foundation/project/snow-leopards 

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