Wow, this is a classy photograph and I am very demanding when it comes to standards in photography. I think this is the best snow leopard photograph I have seen. It shows us the cold, rocky, harsh landscape in which snow leopards live. The cats are looking at the camera. They are aware of the photographer. They look calm but this species are like that. They are one of the least aggressive of the wild cat species.
The snow leopard is one of five species of pantherines or big cat. Although I always considered there to be four big cat species, the ones that roar. If you say there are five big cats then the snow leopard is added to the lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar. The snow leopard does not roar.
The picture, as mentioned, evokes beautifully the remote, rocky, mountainous regions, high above forests where this beautiful large wild cat lives. It’s a bleak world which perhaps provides a wonderful backdrop to this most attractive of all cats. This cat is not only attractive in appearance. They are also quite friendly in character which is why they can be killed relatively easily by farmers after they have attacked livestock. This is why The Snow Leopard Trust have and continue to work closely with farmers in these high plains to protect the snow leopard by providing insurance schemes. Rather than kill snow leopards the farmers received compensation instead.
No other member of the cat family can survive in these bleak landscapes. The snow leopard has an unusually thick coat of dense fur. In addition, the cat is adapted to the intense cold by having short, thick legs with big paws, a stocky body, the longest tail of any cat which is heavily furred and a relatively small head and short round ears.
The coat is a pale grey colour with dark rosetted spots all over the body including the legs. The tail tip is ringed and becomes darker towards the extremity. This is a most athletic cat. It has to be because it frequently navigates steep, dangerous slopes of 40 degrees when chasing prey which is normally blue sheep but includes dear, ibex, hares, marmots and birds to name some of them.
As mentioned, the snow leopard has relatively short legs but is capable of amazing leaps when hunting. It has been observed to jump 16 metres across a ditch when running uphill. I’m not sure that anybody knows how many of them there are in the world. They have enormous ranges of hundreds of square kilometres and they are incredibly elusive. You’ll be lucky to see one which makes the photograph on this page all the more special. There have been estimates as to their numbers but I’m not sure how trustworthy they are.
They live between the lower elevation limit above sea level of 500 metres up to 5,800 metres. The IUCN Red List say on their website that the number of mature individuals is between 2,710 and 3,386 as at November 2016. They are remarkably precise numbers but a wide range. Strange. The population is decreasing and there is a continuing decline of mature individuals on the planet. Below there are some links to snow leopard articles. Please click on them if you wish to learn a bit more about this fabulous cat and my favourite.