The snow leopard, also called the snow leopard, snow cat or snow leopard, is a large feline predator. The weight of an adult animal can exceed 50 kilograms. Snow leopards live in Central and South Asia. On the territory of Russia, they are found in Altai, Buryatia, Tuva, Khakassia and Krasnoyarsk Territory. Leopards live in hard-to-reach places and lead a secretive lifestyle. Therefore, biologists find it difficult to name the total number of leopards in the wild. The approximate figure is 5-7 thousand individuals. In all countries where the snow leopard lives, it is under protection due to the threat of complete extinction.
As a rule, leopards live in the mountains at an altitude of 4, 000 meters above sea level. The maximum height where they could be found is 6, 000 meters. In 1967, the unofficial title "Snow Leopard" was established in the Soviet Union, which is awarded to climbers who have conquered the highest peaks of the USSR. Honored Master of Sports Evgeny Ivanov became the first holder of the title.
Snow leopards, in pursuit of prey, are capable of jumping up to six meters in length and three meters in height. The tail, which is almost equal to the length of the leopard's body, helps them to maintain balance during the jump. Animals do not differ in particular endurance, although at a short distance they are able to reach speeds of up to 65 kilometers per hour. If it was not possible to catch up with the victim at a distance of several hundred meters, the pursuit stops. An adult leopard is able to eat several kilograms of meat at one time. In high altitude conditions, it has practically no competitors from other predators. Cases of an attack on a person are very rare. Only wounded animals are dangerous.
Snow leopards hunt a wide variety of animals. The main diet is mountain goats and rams. It also happens that they attack pets. If it is not possible to get a large prey, leopards switch to small rodents and birds. As a rule, a predator does not eat its prey at the place of a successful hunt, but chooses some secluded corner for a meal. For example, a gorge and a cave in the rocks.
Despite the fact that snow leopards belong to the cat family, they can be called silent: the animal does not know how to growl or meow. They are only capable of making sounds similar to a cat's purr. Leopards have excellent eyesight, a predator is able to notice large prey at a distance of several kilometers.
Snow leopards have wide and fluffy pads. Nature itself took care of the animals, "presenting" them with such comfortable snowshoes, thanks to which the leopard can evenly distribute weight and not fall through even while moving through loose and deep snow.
Leopards prefer to lead a solitary lifestyle. They unite in pairs only for the duration of the mating season. Pregnancy of the female lasts 3 - 3, 5 months. Cubs are born most often in late spring or early summer. There are usually 2-3 cubs in a litter, sometimes up to 5. By that time, the couples have already broken up, the males do not take part in raising the offspring.
For the first month and a half, the cubs feed only on mother's milk, after which they begin to join the hunt. Due to the poor knowledge of the snow leopard, it is difficult to name the life span of the animal. In captivity, leopards can live up to 20 years of age, in the wild they are much less.
Currently, there are about 2, 000 snow leopards in captivity around the world. The first snow leopard appeared in the Moscow Zoo at the very beginning of the 20th century. The zoo staff managed to achieve regular breeding of these animals.
The beautiful fur of snow leopards has become the reason that animals often become victims of poachers. Leopard pelt on the black market can cost tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, bones are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Therefore, poaching has led to a rapid decline in the population. Only joint actions on the part of those states where this beautiful and very rare animal lives will help to save the leopards.
The problem of preserving the number of snow leopards was discussed at the World Forum, which was held in October 2013 in the capital of Kyrgyzstan - Bishkek. As a result, the forum participants developed a program for the conservation of this animal. A new holiday was even instituted - International Day of the Snow Leopard, which is celebrated annually on October 23rd.
Russia is the northernmost country where snow leopards live. The first information about them can be found in the trade books of Siberia in the 16th century; leopards were also mentioned in the legends of Siberian peoples. But, at that time, naturally, no one was seriously studying this animal. Currently, according to various sources, from 100 to 200 individuals live on the territory of our country. In Russia, the snow leopard is listed in the Red Book as an endangered species.