Snow leopards in Nepal: A Magestic Species On The Brink of Extinction

Recently, a series of Snow leopard clicked by an American wildlife photographer Kittiya Pawlowski in going viral on the internet. These beautiful and majestic photos of a rare snow leopard which was roaming around Mt. Everest at more than 18,000 ft, has stunned many.

The photographer is said to have trekked for more than 165km in the different terrains of Nepal to find the snow leopard. Her search end when she found a snow leopard roaming in front of Mt. Pumori in Khombu region.

Check out this photos clicked by Kittiya Pawlowski:

After seeing this series of photos of snow leopard clicked and published by her, this is a very good time to know about snow leopard and their condition in Nepal. In this post, we will learn more about this mysterious cat and discuss what can be done to conserve it for years to come.

What are Snow Leopards?

The snow leopard, known as The Ghost of the Mountains for its rarity, is one of the most majestic animals in the world. These big cats are powerful and incredibly beautiful – there’s no doubt that they are the stuff of fairy tales!

However, they are also on the brink of extinction due to hunting and habitat loss; only under 10,000 snow leopards remain in the wild today.

A small, beautiful feline, the snow leopard can also be extremely elusive. They are rarely seen by humans and their natural habitat of high altitudes in Asia makes them difficult to study up close as well.

Currently listed as endangered by the IUCN, the snow leopard population has dwindled due to poaching and habitat destruction over the past few decades, but luckily there are organizations such as Panthera that are working to save this species.

Name And Etymology

Snow Leopards are large, beautiful mammals that live in mountainous regions in Central Asia, including Nepal, Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan. Both the Latin name uncia and the English word ounce are derived from the Old French once, which was also used for the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx).

Once is thought to have evolved from an earlier variant of lynx by false splitting; lonce was interpreted as l’once, in which l’ is the elided form of the French definite article la (‘the’), leaving once to be perceived as the animal’s name.

The word panther derives from the classical Latin panthēra, itself from the ancient Greek πάνθηρ pánthēr, which was used for spotted cats.

Habitat of Snow Leopards in Nepal

Snow Leopards are found in the Himalayan Mountains, which are located in both Pakistan and India as well as Nepal. In Nepal, the potential habitat of snow leopards is estimated to be about 13,000, and above 9,000-14,000 ft above the sea-level.

The snow leopard is considered an endangered species with only 1,000 to 3,000 snow leopards left in their natural habitat. The snow leopard encounter is mainly possible on the northern frontiers of Nepal.

The habitat of snow leopard are mainly the mountain-protected areas of Nepal like Annapurna Conservation Area, Shey-Phoksundu National Park, Kangchenjunga Conservation Area, Manalsu Conservation Area, Makalu Varun National Park, Sagarmatha National Park, Api Nampa Conservation Area, and Langtang National Area.

Condition of Snow Leopards in Nepal

Snow Leopards aren’t one of those animals that are found in many countries. Snow leopards aren’t found in only 12 countries and Nepal is one of these 12 countries. Though once considered common throughout the Himalayan mountain range, snow leopards in Nepal are now an endangered species due to deforestation and habitat loss, poaching, and prey reduction.

At present, there are no accurate estimates of how many snow leopards remain in Nepal or how their numbers will change in the coming years. Though, it is estimated that there are 350-500 snow leopards in Nepal.

This makes conservation efforts difficult, but the nation’s national parks continue to play an important role in protecting them until such time as humans can learn to live together with these majestic cats.

Snow Leopards in Nepal are one of the most endangered animals in the world due to poaching, hunting and habitat loss. Snow leopard numbers have been estimated at between 500-600 individuals in India and 2000-2500 in China and its range is restricted to 12 countries within Asia where they reside at an altitude above 3,200m.

In 2009, snow leopards were classified as vulnerable by IUCN. It was found that snow leopards live only in the country’s protected areas, namely Annapurna Conservation Area, Sagarmatha National Park and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. Their current habitats are under threat because of agricultural encroachment, human settlement and infrastructure development like highways which hinder their movement.

Why Are They Endangered?

Snow leopards in Nepal are endangered for many reasons, but primarily due to habitat destruction and poaching. Because snow leopards live in mountain ranges, they are especially vulnerable to deforestation because it can cause their prey animals to move into lower altitudes where they become more accessible.

Snow leopards also often fall prey to poachers for their fur and organs, which have medicinal values in some cultures. Due to these factors, snow leopards in Nepal now number less than 120 adults living across 18 mountainous areas. There is no indication that population numbers are increasing or decreasing.

Read: What Is Killing Snow Leopards in Nepal?

How Can They Be Conserved?

It’s difficult to know exactly how many snow leopards there are in the wild, but it’s estimated that there are between 4,000-8,000 left in their natural habitat. There are various reasons for this drastic decline.

One is that they’re hunted for their beautiful fur and another is that their habitat is being encroached upon by humans as more people move into these regions as well as deforestation for timber and other resources.

Finally, poachers will often capture snow leopards and sell them to zoos or animal traders who resell them around the world. But all hope is not lost!

Organizations like Snow Leopard Trust work diligently to preserve and protect snow leopard populations so that future generations can enjoy them in their natural habitats.

Some Facts About Snow Leopards

Here are some interesting facts about snow leopards:

  • Snow leopards are beautiful, intelligent creatures that live in the mountainous regions of Central and South Asia.
  • They are some of the world’s most elusive animals, but these snow cats can be found are found only in 12 countries and inhabits alpine & subalpine zones.
  • The snow leopard is usually found at high altitudes, between 9,000 and 14,000 feet above sea level due to their intolerance for heat and scarcity of prey at lower elevations.
  • According to IUCN, the total number of population of snow leopards in the world is under only 10,000 that added this species to the vulnerable list of IUCN.
  • Snow leopards are also solitary creatures, which means they often go out hunting alone and only stay together when mating or raising young.
  • Males typically have territories that span around 40 square miles while females have territories about half the size.
  • It is also regarded as monotypic species.


Nepal has the third highest population of snow leopards in the world, but this is not enough to ensure their safety from human encroachment and poaching. In fact, there are only about 350-500 snow leopards left in Nepal today—and that number is shrinking every day.

Despite efforts by the Nepalese government to create safe zones for these beautiful creatures, deforestation and habitat loss have become an unstoppable reality. The snow leopard in Nepal will soon be another statistic unless conservationists find a way to save it.


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