Snow Leopards are classed as a Vulnerable species with an estimated wild population of between 3,000 and 6,000 cats in the wild. Their wild range stretches through the mountains of central Asia.
One of the major threats towards wild populations is poaching. The trade of snow leopards happens in the dark so it is difficult to know exactly what numbers are traded but between 2008 & 2016 it is estimated that between 220-450 cats per year were killed, an average of 1 cat every day.
Their main food sources, the wild sheep and goats, are also threatened by illegal or unsustainable hunting in many parts of the Snow Leopard range. If the prey decline, so does the Snow Leopard population.
As more land is used for livestock purposes, more domestic farm stock make their way into snow leopard habitat where the cats may occasionally prey on them. The herders will then seek to persecute the snow leopard as the loss of livestock is catastrophic for their income.
There is also the threat of habitat destruction through the mining industry.
At Northumberland Zoo
In December 2020, we welcomed two female snow leopards from
RZSS Highland Wildlife Park.They were born in August 2019, so they are very young and playful!
When we decided to keep this species, we partnered with the Snow Leopard Trust who conducts vital conservation work across 12 range countries in South and Central Asia.
The Snow Leopard Trust finds ways for snow leopards to co-exist with the people who share their habitats. They do this through various different routes.
· Conservation Education: educating local people on the snow leopard and inspiring the next generation of snow leopard protectors.
· Anti-Poaching: working with the Kyrgyz government to train law enforcement, rangers and local communities to fight against poachers
· Livestock Predation Prevention: Helping local communities build taller stock fencing to surround their livestock and protect them from predators
· Livestock Vaccinations: Providing local herder families with vaccinations as in some communities up to five times more livestock is lost to disease rather than predation
· Livestock Insurance: The Trust's insurance programme helps rural communities reduce the financial impact of snow leopard predation by giving them compensation
· Snow Leopard Enterprises: Conservation-focused range of handicrafts that are creating sustainable economic opportunities for families in snow leopard habitat to make money and reduce the motivation for poaching.
In the short time that we have had the snow leopards from December 2020, we have already raised £2,500 towards Snow Leopard Trust projects in the field.
Although we are not breeding from these girls, they act as Animal Ambassadors for their species. They are the only Snow Leopards kept in the North of England, providing an amazing opportunity to educate and inspire people in this area about their plight and help to raise money towards their conservation in the wild.
We also stock a range of Snow Leopard Trust products and Enterprise range in our gift shop which further supports the work that is done in the wild.
Alternatively, if you would like to make a donation to help us with our conservation aims, you can donate here.