International Snow Leopard Day and adventures of photographers
Snow leopards are captivating and powerful animals. However, they are also vulnerable to loss of prey and poaching. These animals are distributed sparsely across 12 different countries in Central Asia. They tend to be found in rugged, high mountain landscapes, at elevation between 3,000 and 4,000 m.
Snow leopards are able to prey on animals that are up to three times their own body weight.
They have massive, thick tails, which are able to help them maintain balance and shield them from harsh weather. Their tals are almost as long as their entire body.
A study from the WWF has recorded snow leopards living at 5,859 meters above sea level. This is the highest altitude that has ever been documented for big cats. This is about the same height as the highest mountain of Canada.
Snow leopards are not able to roar. Instead, they mew, yowl and growl. They also prusten, which is also known as chuffing. This is a non-threatening vocalization, which is made when they blow air through their nose.
Their fur on the stomach of snow leopard is almost five inch thick. That makes them survive in the harsh and cold mountain climates.
These animals are often referred as ‘ghosts of the mountain’ because they spend most of their lives in solicitude and they are rarely seen.
The exact number of snow leopards is unknown. Experts believe that there is no more than 6,390 snow leopards around the world, yet the number could be as small as 3,920. There are a number of threats that this elusive cat faces, including poaching. Data is hard to come by in this respect because a lot of trades with snow leopard parts occur in the dark. Some research shows that one snow leopard has been killed and traded every day between 2008 and 2016. However, the true extent of the issue is thought to be even bigger.
No animal should be poached, and this is why the likes of International Snow Leopard Day are so important so that we can raise awareness about the issue. Poaching is also a problem because it takes away resources for the snow leopard. The main prey species for the snow leopard are wild goat and sheep. However, these species are also threatened by unsustainable or illegal hunting in a lot of the parts of the snow leopard range. So, if there is a decline in their populations, there is also going to be a decline in the population of the snow leopard.
Snow leopards face a number of other threats that a lot of people don’t consider. For example, their mountain ecosystem could be destroyed because of large-scale developments, including mining. Climate change also poses a number of challenges as well. Temperatures are increasing in the mountains across Central Asia. This has an impact on the entire ecosystem; from water supplies to vegetation. It is certainly worrying times for snow leopards, and a good way to spend International Snow Leopard Day is by educating yourself fully on the issues these animals face.
A day in a year is dedicated for recalling the value of Snow Leopards around the world. However, the day celebrated in a limited number of countries and organizations.
The International Snow Leopard Day occurred on the 23rd of October in 2014. The main purpose of the day is to show the importance of snow leopard conservation and raise awareness about this incredible animal. The day also emphasizes consolidating efforts in terms of taking measures to stop poaching, as well as consolidating efforts in terms of an environmental organization in the countries of the snow leopard range.
The day was initiated by the countries that encompass the snow leopard’s range. They include Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, India, China, Bhutan and Afghanistan. On the 23rd October, in 2013, these countries signed the Bishkek Declaration regarding the conservation of the snow leopard. This happened in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, at the very first Global Snow Leopard Forum.
International Snow Leopard Day
The first International Snow Leopard Day occurred on the 23rd of October in 2014. The main purpose of this day is to show the importance of snow leopard conservation and raise awareness about this incredible animal. The day also emphasizes the importance of taking measures to stop poaching, as well as consolidating efforts in terms of an environmental organization in the countries of the snow leopard range.
The day was initiated by the countries that encompass the snow leopard’s range. They include Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, India, China, Bhutan, and Afghanistan. On the 23rd of October, in 2013, these countries signed the Bishkek Declaration regarding the conservation of the snow leopard. This happened in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, at the very first Global Snow Leopard Forum
Recently US-based photographer, Kittiya Pawlowski, have earned praise internationally as she captures the elusive creature in some stunning backdrops. Pawlowski posted several shots of the animal on her Instagram account which has a total of just 5 posts.
She explained that she had to trek over 103 miles (165 km) on foot to track the white leopard. Her search for the animal began in the rugged Himalayan landscape of the 7,629 km2 Annapurna Conservation Area in north-central Nepal.
“following a goat herder’s path above mud-and-timber houses clustered on steep hillsides. I discovered the first signs of the elusive snow leopard – a single paw print hardened in mud. It had rained the previous week, making these tracks fairly fresh,” she added.
The photographs of snow leopard Kittiya Pawlowski successfully shot are admired by the wildlife lovers.
Initially, Pawlowski had started her search from the Annapurna conservation area in north-central Nepal. After discovering the first signs of the elusive snow leopard she headed east into the Everest Region where she backpacked for Sagarmatha National Park.
Pawlowski mentioned on her website as she was able to capture the best shot of the snow leopard in Khumbu glacier lake at around 4 AM on October 9. Overlooking Phantom Alley, a field of ice pinnacles, was a snow leopard.
Snow leopards were successfully shot in the past by some adventure – wildlife photographers. Chungba Sherpa is among them. He shot the ghost of mountain in 2006 in Manang, the part of Annapurna Himalayas range. He says that he saw snow leopards 30 times and able to shot 29 times by his sophisticated camera. He had spent very hard time to be able to find the rarely seen animals.
Tashi R. Ghale is another well-known wildlife photographer and conservationist. Ghale spent a couple of weeks in the field photographing snow leopards. Tashi has lived his whole life in the mountains of Nepal and has been fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph snow leopards for more than a decade. There are photographers and scientists who have only seen them once, maybe twice, or not at all during their professional lifetime of searching. Tashi tells us it just takes a lot of hiking and time and patience to obtain the images.
The winter months of January, February, and March are the breeding season for snow leopards, and it’s a time when the big cats follow their wild prey down to lower elevations, which makes them a bit easier to find. The winter weather can be challenging, however, with the possibility of snow and colder temperatures. On the days of Tashi’s sightings, fortunately, the skies were clear, with an average temperature of -4 to -7 degrees C (19 to 24 degrees F) at an elevation of about 3,750 meters (12,300 feet), just above the treeline, which can be seen in some of his images. Tashi said that most of his sightings occurred in the late afternoon after sunset, which is when snow leopards become active, being crepuscular or dusk and dawn hunters. (By R. P. Narayan)