Illegal hunting, also known as poaching, has been a major problem for the Snow Leopard, which is currently listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Image Credit: Alejandro Merizalde
And now, a new report first published by Traffic now suggests hundreds of the species, ranging from 220-450 or maybe more, could be getting killed on an annual basis. The killings have reportedly been going on undetected in the mountains located in central Asia for many years.
Around half of the killings are said to occur from retaliation from farmers against crop and livestock attacks, but these very conservative figures also take into account Snow Leopards that are accidentally captured in traps intended for other creatures and even poachers who are killing them purposely for their valuable pelts.
Because the problem isn’t related solely to poachers, something needs to be done to protect farmers’ crops and livestock from Snow Leopard attacks, as this move alone could help reduce Snow Leopard killings as much as 50%. To help with the other half of killings, improvements with to the effectiveness of law enforcement will be required in these regions.
Setting up some kind of Snow Leopard-proof enclosure for farmers’ animals may be a great place to start, as doing so could reduce their urge to retaliate against the Snow Leopards that try to kill their livestock.
“Even if there is reduced demand for snow leopard skins, the killing will continue unless we all work together to drastically reduce human-wildlife conflict and ensure that mountain communities can co-exist with snow leopards,” said Rishi Sharma, from WWF and a co-author of the report. “Compensation schemes and innovative predator-proof corrals are making a difference but we urgently need to expand these to benefit communities – and snow leopards – across Asia’s high mountains.”
There are believed to be only about 4,000-7,000 Snow Leopards remaining in the wild today, and that number has fallen up to 20% in just the last 16 years, which is an alarming decline for a species that isn’t doing well to begin with.
Unless we can do something about the current state of the situation, the future for Snow Leopards is looking pretty unsustainable.
Source: Traffic via New Scientist