Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Endangered Cats: Snow Leopards (Unca unca)

Snow leopards are endangered cats that live in the mountains of Central Asia. They weight 60-120 lbs and are relatively small in size. They are about 4-5 feet (1-2.5 m) in body length. The tail is about 36 inches (91 cm).  They are a little larger than an ocelot if you are familiar with ocelots, or about the size of a yellow Labrador retriever.
Snow leopards are not leopards, scientists from Texas A&M University, William Murphy and Brian Davis found that they are  more closely related to tigers. 
These cats like many other top predators are carnivorous. Most carnivorous species reproduce at slow rates compared to smaller vegetarian animals. Large animals like wild cats, require a lot of energy and large habitats or territories to find their prey and mate. 
Because of human induced habitat, climate change and other factors, the populations of most wild cats including snow leopards, are highly constrained concerning habitat and resources. Later however, as they encounter live stocks and pray on them, they are also threatened by hunters and ranchers.  These human-wildcat encounters have increased with time. In general the cats are the losers, though with some efforts that scenario can change.

Education, ecotourism, and the implementation of fences have been suggested as ways to help wild cats including snow leopards. You too could help wild cats. Below are some resources for free donations, monetary donations, and volunteering. 

The author Mirna Santana is an ecologist.

News on Snow leopard:
New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/26/science/26angier.html
National Geographic: Snow leopard and other cats
To learn more about wild cats:
To make a donation for wild cats:
The wild cat fund http://www.wildcatfund.org/
care2.com wild cats (donate by clicking, free) http://www.care2.com/click-to-donate/big-cats/
Wildcat conservation legal aid society http://www.wcclas.org/wildcats.html
Donate to small wild cats http://www.wildcatconservation.org/

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