MADRID – The snow leopard, which is in danger of extinction, has managed to thrive in the Himalayan mountains in Central Asia where populations live in the wild at more than 4,000 meters above sea level on harsh terrain, a Spanish photographer and biologist told EFE on Monday.
Oriol Alamany Sese and his wife and work colleague Eulalia Vicens visited the Himalayas between February and March in what was their sixth trip to the Indian region of the rugged mountain chain in order to learn more about the so-called “ghost of the mountains.”
The pair managed to get eight sightings of the elusive cats which spend hours waiting for prey camouflaged with their surroundings.
This year, there has been heavy snowfall across the region, Alamany told Efe in an interview.
There have been many avalanches which have led to access roads being cut off, the biologist added.
In their most recent trip, the pair have managed to see a family of leopards, a leopardess and two pups, which they spotted last year when the pups were still cubs.
“We suspect that they could be a female and a male who will abandon their mother in a few weeks following 20 months of living together, the time at which snow leopards start their lives on their own,” the Catalan specialist said, adding that the pups are now the size of fully grown leopards.
Alamany has visited this specific area in the Himalayas three times now and he plans his visits during the mating season as the probability of seeing the evasive creatures is much higher.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has placed the snow leopard on its Red List of endangered species.
The wild cats inhabit the hostile mountains of Central Asia and adapt to the barren landscapes remarkably, but humans are threatening their existence.
Alamany quoted a 2016 study which placed the snow leopard population at anywhere between 4,600-8,700, but acknowledged that other surveys suggest there could be between 4,500-7,500 cats in the wild.
“These are only estimates,” the scientist continued.
“Each year between 220 and 450 cats are killed in the areas that they inhabit,” Alamany warned.
The trafficking of fur is behind the killing of around 240 cats in China and between 21-45 in India, the wildlife expert added.
In addition to the lucrative fur trafficking industry and the poaching of mammals in order to sell their organs, an increase of tourism in the area also poses a threat to these creatures.
The Spaniard recalled that on his most recent trip they saw Indian photographers on the usually deserted mountains.