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Snow Leopard

Classification
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Felidae
  • Genus: Panthera
  • Species: uncia
Fun Fact

A snow leopard is able to kill prey three times its weight.

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About Snow Leopards

Due to their excellent camouflage, elusive behavior and small numbers snow leopards are rarely seen in the wild and are difficult to study. Much of the information we have has been from research on snow leopards in zoos.

This medium sized cat is very well adapted to living in the cold, mountainous regions. Their fur is long, thick and a smoky-gray color with dark gray to black rosettes and spots. They have a lighter fur coat in the winter. Their body is about 4-5 feet long, with a 3 foot long tail. This tail is covered with long fur and is wrapped around the body while resting for warmth and it helps with their balance. They have short forelimbs and long hind limbs that increase their agility in the rough terrain. They have large paws with fur on the bottoms which help them walk in the snow. They have a well-developed chest and enlarged nasal cavities which help them in the cold thin air of their high altitude habitat.

Snow leopards are crepuscular, active during dusk and dawn. However, they may be active throughout the day where there are few people and they may become nocturnal in areas where there are more people. They are solitary animals with territories that will overlap slightly and they will come together only during the mating season. However, male and female pairs have shown high sociability and bonding in zoos. They do not roar but they do make other vocalizations such as moans, yowls and “prustens” which are similar to grunts.

Snow Leopards in the Wild

Habitat

They show a strong preference for a habitat with broken terrain, rocky outcrops, and ravines as opposed to open smooth slopes and densely forested areas.

Location

Mountains of Central Asia, specifically the Himalayas, Altai and Hindu Kush.

Diet

Their most common prey are blue sheep and wild goat. They also will feed on wild boar, tahr, gazelles, marmot, pika, hares and other small rodents as well as game birds. When there are prey storages, they will feed on livestock such as horses, sheep, goats, and young yaks. They will stalk their prey and spring from a distance of 20 to 50 feet for a kill. They have loose belly skin which allows them to be kicked by prey with very little damage. They eat very slowly and will stay with the kill to protect it from scavengers such as vultures or ravens. Therefore, they only need to hunt for food about twice a month.

Population Status

The snow leopard has been listed as an “endangered species” by IUCN since 1972 and is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Appendix I), which makes trafficking of live cats, fur, or body parts illegal.

Field Conservation

By partnering with the Snow Leopard Trust, the Akron Zoo plays an important role in understanding and protecting endangered snow leopards in the wild. The zoo supports community education initiatives in the snow leopards home range and field monitoring of snow leopards.

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