These cats may melt away like the Himalayan snows
As the Earth’s climate continues to warm, there will be winners and losers. Animals researchers in Asia have found a troubling change at high altitude. Common leopards have been photographed in what has been exclusive territory of the snow leopard.
Chinese scientists using a camera trap witnessed a female common leopard and her cub and, at a different time, a snow leopard. In the past, the snow leopards had nearly exclusive use of territory above 3 000 metres. Observers in Nepal have reported sightings of the two cats in the same territory.
Snow leopards are listed as endangered with estimated numbers between 3500 and 7000. They are prized by poachers. If the tree line continues upward in elevation, it is feared that the elusive cat will have its territory squeezed and fragmented. They are particularly adapted to the rocky, treeless heights.
Poaching and habitat change threaten the cats directly, but hunting and poaching of prey animals deprive the cats of their food. The leopards sometimes attack and eat domestic animals and earn the ire of the herders who kill the cats to protect their animals.
Mining is increasingly a threat. Snow leopards are shy and elusive, usually steering clear of humans and their activities. Mining activities, especially strip mines are particularly destructive to their habitat.