The population of the snow leopard has declined 20 percent over the past 16 years and more than a third of its habitat will vanish due to unchecked climate change.
Snow leopard, world’s most enigmatic species, is facing threat of extinction.
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According to a latest report of World Wildlife Fund, the population of this iconic animal has declined 20 percent over the last 16 years and there could be as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in Asia today.
The elusive big cat lives in the mountain ranges across Asia. Due to warmer temperatures, crops and trees are now shifting up the higher altitude areas, limiting snow leopards into smaller territory and depriving them from their natural habitats. If climate change is left unchecked, more than a third of its habitats will disappear. Loss of habitat will push them to extinction as well.
Climate change is also having a negative impact on Asia’s major watersheds. Ice on mountains is melting faster and more than 330 million people who are directly dependent on mountains for their daily water supplies will eventually lose one of their key water resources.
“Urgent action is needed to curb climate change and prevent further degradation of snow leopard habitat, otherwise the ‘ghost of the mountains’ could vanish, along with critical water supplies for hundreds of millions of people.” Rishi Kumar Sharma, WWF Global Snow Leopard Leader, said in a statement.
WWF has a long history of backing snow leopard’s conservation efforts but for the first time, the organization is working on a global strategy for ensuring the survival of this animal. Their focus is on those areas that can add most value to global efforts to conserve the species and can protect both people’s livelihood and snow leopard habitat in key locations across the range.
“Climate change is a major risk, but we also need to concentrate on other factors. Snow leopards won’t survive for long unless we tackle climate change alongside other threats such as poaching, retaliatory killings by herders, declining prey species and poorly planned development,” said Sami Tornikoski, Leader WWF Living Himalayas Initiative.
“India, Nepal and Bhutan have proven that it’s possible to increase the number of iconic species like tigers and rhinos. Together the government, conservationists and communities can achieve similar successes with snow leopards and drag them back from the brink.”
In 2013, twelve snow leopard range states signed up Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) in Bishkek. Despite these efforts, the animal population continues to decline.
“Reserving the downward trend in snow leopard and conserving their fragile habitat require conservation efforts on an unparallel scale,” said Rishi Kumar Sharma. “It will be difficult to achieve but the momentum and political will exists: government must now translate this into action by swiftly scaling up their efforts to save the ghost of the mountains.”