Snow leopards face various threats that threaten the survival of the species. In 2023, the snow leopard population, despite conservation efforts, is still suffering from human activities and their consequences, which are destrying its habitat, and not only.
Greenhouse gas emissions will likely cause a treeline shift in the Himalayas and a shrinking alpine zone, which could reduce snow leopard habitat by about 30 percent. Where snow leopards prey on domesticated livestock, they are prone to human-wildlife conflicts.
Loss of natural prey items due to livestock overgrazing, poaching, and livestock defense are major factors in the dwindling snow leopard population. Livestock also causes habitat degradation which, coupled with the increasing use of forests for fuel, reduces snow leopard habitat.
The main threats to the snow leopard population include poaching and the illegal trade in skins and body parts. Between 1999 and 2002, three live snow leopard cubs and 16 skins were confiscated, 330 traps were destroyed, and 110 poachers were arrested in Kyrgyzstan.
Covert operations in the country have revealed an illegal trading network with links to Russia and China via Kazakhstan.
What are the main threats to the survival of the Snow Leopard in 2023?
The major leather trading center in the region is Kashgar city in Xinjiang.
In Tibet and Mongolia, the hides are used for traditional clothing and meat in traditional Tibetan medicine to treat kidney problems; the bones are used in traditional Chinese and Mongolian medicine for the treatment of rheumatism, injuries and pains of human bones and tendons.
Between 1996 and 2002, 37 skins were found in wildlife markets and tourist shops in Mongolia. Between 2003 and 2016, 710 skins were traded, of which 288 were seized. In China, between 103 and 236 animals are hunted each year, in Mongolia between 34 and 53, in Pakistan between 23 and 53, in India between 21 and 45, and in Tajikistan between 20 and 25.
In 2016, a survey of websites revealed 15 advertisements for 44 snow leopard products; merchants offered skins, canines, claws and a tongue. In September 2014, nine snow leopard skins were found during a market survey in Afghanistan.