How far can a snow leopard leap and can it roar louder than a lion? Read on . . .
Snow leopards are medium sized "big" cats, also known as "ounce" or "uncia uncia".
Native to high-altitude Asian regions, about one-quarter of them live in Mongolia . . .
Here’s a picture of one:
Since they live in mountainous areas they need a large body to accommodate lungs capable of extracting enough oxygen from the thin mountain air.
But compared to its body, this big cat has a disproportionately small head. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll also notice out of proportion legs and tail. The—short, stubby but muscular legs and super-sized tail help it to keep balance on mountain ridges and in snowy regions.
They need great balance to catch dinner! In Mongolia, leopards hunt ibex and argali sheep. The ibex and sheep climb like pros and the ounce needs every ounce of its balance, strength and agility to catch one. Take a look at this video:
As you can see catching an ibex ain’t easy!
The leopard supplements its larger prey with small animals such as marmots. But intensive hunting of marmots by humans has led to a shortage and caused the snow leopard to start hunting herders’ livestock.
Unfortunately, herders can’t afford to lose livestock. They depend on their animals for food and clothing—even their homes. So inevitably the herders will hunt down and kill leopards. For a herder losing livestock can amount to a life-or-death issue!
So, how can we save the Mongolian leopard?
Several organizations actively work to protect the leopard. But before they can stop hunters they need to address the reasons nomads hunt leopards and find ways to protect or compensate herders for loss of livestock. Not an easy task!
To protect the leopard you first have to find them. Also easier said than done! A snow leopards fur provides it with great camouflage. Check out this photograph to see what I mean.
National Parks have provided the best protection so far. But policing the national parks and enforcing the rules proves a difficult challenge . . .
Mongolia has two protected areas with a leopard population: the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park and Ubsunur Hollow.
The Gobi National Park has no fences or visible boundary markings. It also lacks park rangers. This makes it difficult to enforce the leopards protected status.Ubsunur Hollow, on the border of Mongolia and Tuva, offers a more secure sanctuary. Guarded by border police no one is allowed into this area—so not a great place to visit!
Where can I see a Mongolian leopard?
Yolyn Am, an eastern outcrop of the Altai Mountains, offers you the best chance of catching sight of a leopard. Of course, there’s no guarantee you will see one there—the locals don’t call leopards “shape-changing mountain spirits” for nothing.
But, if you want to give yourself that small chance then Yolyn Am is the place to go. I haven’t seen a wild leopard there myself, but have spoken to those who have.
More facts and pictures . . .
Still want to know how far a leopard can leap and how loud it can roar? Click here for more facts about the leopard.