Snow leopard population size (2022). Low and declining.

The title to this page tells you that I’m going to provide you snow leopard population sizes as at 2022. It should be noted, however, that the latest information is 2016. That might seem quite bad but actually it’s quite good. It’s about six years out of date but you don’t get much better than that in the world of conservation. So, below, is information gleaned from the IUCN Red List, which is the organisation you turn to for this sort of information.

As expected, the current population trend for this impressive, large wild cat species is decreasing. The number of mature individuals is low, very low at between 2,710-3,386. Remember, there is the total number of mature individual snow leopards remaining on the planet.

Stunning photograph of three snow leopards on ledge in cliff face
Stunning photograph of three snow leopards on ledge in cliff face. I don’t know who took it. Sorry. And I need to provide a credit.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

They expect the continuing decline of mature individuals going forward but they say that the population of the snow leopard is not fragmented. That means that it is more or less in one area rather than compartmentalise into several different places. The latter is bad news for conservation so at least this is one good point.

The threats to survival of this species of cat varies from place to place. However, the main ongoing threats can be categorised under three headings: (1) a degradation of the habitat and a decline in the number of animals that the snow leopard preys upon including competition with livestock and (2) the killing of the snow leopard by farmers in retaliation for the snow leopard killing their livestock which is a classic example of human-wild cat conflict which occurs in a number of wild cat species and (3) an illegal trade in furs, bones and other body parts.

It is disappointing to read about the illegal trade in body parts of this cat. This is something which the tiger has suffered from for many years. It appears that the Chinese traditional medicine industry has turned their attention to the snow leopard. In general, the rarer the animal more desirable it becomes in terms of superstitious medicinal benefits. Science does not support Chinese traditional medicine.

In addition to the above, climate change is a problem as the snow leopard lives in a very cold, bleak environment which is being altered by climate change. Mining and large-scale infrastructure is also a problem because infrastructure such as roads and railways which are fenced areas carve up the habitat of the snow leopard and fragment it.

Sort of landscape where the snow leopard lives
Sort of landscape where the snow leopard lives

The scientists are yet to quantify these latest threats to survival. I suspect that as the human population grows, infrastructure construction also grows and therefore this threat will no doubt become greater going forward.

They also say that further threats are the lack of awareness among local people and policymakers of the need for conservation of the snow leopard. And there is not enough collaboration between different countries about the conservation of this cat. Further, there is a lack of enforcement of laws protecting the cat.

To return to the poaching of the snow leopard for body parts, researchers have found that over 90% of annual snow leopard poaching is estimated to occur in five countries namely China, Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Tajikistan. The number of known leopards poached in those countries are respectively 103-236, 34-53, 23-53, 21-45, and 20-25. The highest amount of poaching for body parts is in China where the largest part of the snow leopard distribution exists. Relative to the extent of the snow leopard range and population numbers in Afghanistan Russia, the poaching is disproportionally high.

Snow leopard - superb cat and background
Snow leopard – superb cat and background. Screenshot from BBC video.

Snow leopard population size as published on this site 2009

Date of article: 12-7-09: I will use two reliable sources for figures of the snow leopard population:

  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (Red List) – these come from the Snow Leopard Survival Strategy and are estimates as 2003.
  • Wildcats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist (WoW) – these figures come from various sources. This book was published in 2002.

We don’t know exact figures and the ones we have are probably out of date. This is because the range is big and the cat elusive. Funding is also probably hard to come by. Population is decreasing….

Snow leopard population is down

Red List Population Figures – 2003 – estimates

Note: The Red List defines population:

as the number of mature individuals, defined as “individuals known, estimated or inferred to be capable of reproduction.”

LocationPopulation
Afghanistan100-200?
Bhutan100-200?
China2,000-2,500
India200-600
Kazakhstan180-200
Kyrgyzstan150-500
Mongolia500-1,000
Nepal300-500
Pakistan200-420
Russia150-200
Tajikistan180-220
Uzbekistan20-50

The snow leopard population is thought to have declined by about 20% over the past 16 years because of habitat and prey base loss, poaching and persecution (Red List)

WoW Population Figures – 2002 – estimates

LocationPopulation
Worldwide4,500 – 7,500
China2,000
Ladakh (Kashmir) (1986)Less than 200
Nepal350 – 500
Kyrgyzstan (1988)600
Mongolia (1990)1,000

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