Known as the world’s most elusive feline, the Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) lives in the mountains at the elevations of 3,000 to over 5000 m (10,000-17,000 feet). It prefers the steep, rugged terrain with cliffs, ridges, gullies, and slopes interspersed with rocky outcrops (Jackson and Hunter 1996). The total number of this endangered species left in the world is estimated at between 4,500-7,500 in 12 countries of Central Asia — Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekista (Fox 1994; Jackson and Hunter 1996). Snow Leopards are protected in most countries under national and international laws. The species has been listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) of India and is listed as endangered in the 2008 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Globally Threatened Species. They are listed in Appendix 1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1977) to check export and import of their body parts.
The Snow Leopard is the primary predator in high altitude areas of Jammu and Kashmir. Seen along the snow line, the Snow Leopard is not easily noticed because of its effective camouflage. The Snow Leopard’s fur is a thick silvery gray which helps it conceal itself along the snowline and the rocks of the mountains, which are its natural habitat. The black rosettes and spots help the Snow Leopard blend into areas of sunlight and shadow and hide more effectively while stalking its prey.
Wildlife Conservation Fund is eagerly waiting for summers to start the preliminary survey of the Ladakh Area to know about the present status of Snow Leopard in the State.