Indecision over snow leopard status24/08/17Environment
Scientists are divided on whether snow leopards are still an endangered species, a BBC investigation has found.
Some big cat experts say that the population has stabilised and even increased in a number of places. As a result, they claim this has slowed the overall rate of decline.
Dr Tom McCarthy, snow leopard programme executive director for Panthera – the global wild cat conservation organisation – said: “Experts from each range countries were asked to come up with best estimates of snow leopard population by country and the total was between 7,400 and 8,000 animals,”
However, others argue that there is no robust scientific study to prove that the population has stabilised.
Leading officials from 12 countries within the snow leopard range are meeting in Kyrgyzstan in order to strengthen conservation of snow leopards further.
A difference of opinion amongst the scientific community has intensified following an expected downgrading of the threat to snow leopards from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’, which is anticipated to be released in the IUCN Red List.
The Red List is the most comprehensive inventory of the conservation status of different species.
Conservationists say that snow leopards have been threatened by poaching, retaliatory killing by farmers, declining prey species, and shrinking habitats, as well as climate change.
David P Mallon and Rodney Jackson, veterans on snow leopards, wrote in Oryx: ‘Although it is difficult to capture an overall trend, there is a general lack of evidence of a significant continuing decline in the global snow leopard population.’