Where do snow leopards live?

Snow leopards are found in several Asian countries such as Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Tajikistan, Mongolia, etc. This elusive cat species is found in India too. One of the best places to spot them is the Hemis National Park in the Ladakh region. Spanning an area of about 600 sq.km., it is said to house about 200 of these big cats. States such as Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh too are home to snow leopards. However, the number of these camivores and the chances of sighting them are believed to be higher in Hemis National Park than in other places, In all, over 450 snow leopards call the country home.


Snow leopard facts

  • Snow leopards occur predominantly in the Himalayan mountain range and Tibetan plateau. Though they are usually found in mountainous regions if there are plains in their habitats, they seem to prefer rugged terrains within these areas. They are found at altitudes about 9,000 to over 15.000 feet. They prefer rocky outcrops because they help with camouflage when they hunt for prey.
  • In India, they normally feed on Tibetan sheep and the blue sheep (bharal). These omnivores would also feed on smaller mammals and birds, in addition to livestock where the cat’s habitat is interspersed with that of the humans.
  • In 2017, the international Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downlisted the snow leopard from “endangered” to vulnerable on its red list of threatened species, since the overall conservation situation” for snow leopards has been improving over the last decade.
  • Snow leopard is the State animal of Himachal Pradesh.


According to report by the IUCN in 2020, about 7.500 snow leopards live in the wild globally today. However, they seem to facing the threat of extinction due to several factors such as habitat loss, poaching, hunting, and the impacts of climate change. They continue to be illegally traded for their body parts such as fur, bones, meat, etc. Retaliatory killings by people whose livestock has been killed by these cats too happen. In addition, due to the hunting of the cat’s prey such as mountain sheep and goat, these herbivores population is dwindling, in effect, affecting the big cats too. Infrastructure development and human activity in the traditional habitats of these leopards is leading to degradation. As global warming continues, it melts ice in the regions these leopards roam, effectively shrinking the areas they live in.

Some good news!

While globally and in parts of India there’s concern about the species facing decline in population, this month has brought in some news to cheer about. According to media reports, the “scientific” study conducted on snow leopards show that their numbers have been increasing in Himachal Pradesh. From the earlier estimates in 60s, the number today stands in 70s, excluding the cubs.


Picture Credit : Google