Despite a major research focus on snow leopard population assessments, less than 3% of the big cat’s range has robust data on snow leopard abundance. Though snow leopard research has been growing exponentially in the past few decades, the review found only four research hotspots, where multi-year research is being carried out. All research efforts, spanning over a century, covered only 23% of the snow leopard habitat. A majority of this range—possibly over 420 million acres of rugged mountain terrain—has never been researched from a snow leopard context.
Globally, there could be as few as 4,000 snow leopards and the remaining population faces traditional and emerging threats. Increased habitat loss and degradation, poaching, and conflict with communities have contributed to a decline in their numbers and left the species hanging by a thread in many places. Though conservationists are addressing such threats, a robust analysis of how effective the interventions are in achieving their objectives remains scarce.
“By identifying gaps in research, the report presents a valuable opportunity to assess and prioritize snow leopard research,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, manager, Asian species conservation at WWF. “Improved knowledge can provide opportunities for data-driven and targeted conservation actions that will not only help snow leopards but the other wildlife and communities that share their space.”