Snow Leopard

ZOO LOCATION: Asian Highlands

Lifespan: 15-18 years

Wild Diet: Ibex, wild sheep, mice, birds, deer, gazelle, wild boar, and hares

Zoo Diet: Prepared, balanced diet for large carnivores

Predators: Human poaching for fur

SSP: yes

IUCN Status: Endangered

Habitat/Range: Snow leopards inhabit montane forests at tree line - 6,000-18,000 feet above sea level - in the central regions of Asia including southern Siberia, Tibet, and plateau of China

Characteristics: Snow leopards have long, soft, gray fur with shading to white on their under parts. There is a black streak down the middle of the back and the rest of the coat is spotted. Total length is up to 7 ft.; tail length is approximately 3 ft. Adults weigh 60-140 lbs.

Behavior: Snow leopards are nocturnal. Their long, light-colored fur protects them from both cold and extreme heat in summer. Paws have hair cushions to prevent them from sinking into the snow and from the heat of rocks in the summer. Their dens are in rocks and rock crevices. They are superb long jumpers reaching 6-15 meters in one leap.

Reproduction: Snow leopards are solitary animals except during mating season, January through May. When females and males hunt together and when females have their young. Gestation lasts 93-110 days. With 2-5 cubs per litter born in a well-concealed den that is lined with the mother's fur during the spring or summer months. Young open their eyes in 7-9 days and are quite active by two months. They remain with their mother during their first winter.

Conservation: The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) considers snow leopard to be "in immediate danger of extinction." They are extremely rare in many parts of their range due to the demand for their skins for the fur trade. In many countries it is now illegal to use or sell their fur. Despite the laws, the fur trade continues and the species remains threatened. In 1989 a snow leopard coat in Japan sold for $30,000 [World Wildlife Fund resource]. In 2008/2009, CMZ is giving a portion of the Quarters for Conservation money to the International Snow Leopard Trust.