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Snow Leopards Face Threats Of Extinction Due To Climate Change

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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a report on Thursday, Oct. 22, saying that prompt action at the international level must be made to counter the threats of extinction that snow leopards in Asia are currently facing.

The report revealed that approximately more than a third of habitats could be deemed not conducive for the big cats should climate change persists.

The warm climate could put the tree line moving up the mountains. Farmers may need to plant crops and graze livestock at higher locations thus, leaving very small room for the endangered animals.

Rishi Kumar Sharma, the head of the WWF Global Snow Leopard said that prompt action is required to halt climate change and prevent additional damage of snow leopard habitats. If this does not happen, the big cats could disappear together with the vital water resource for a vast population of people.

Only about 4,000 snow leopards are left in high altitude-locations in Asia and this number continues to plummet. Over the past 16 years, the population of the species has been facing a decline of about 20 percent due to poaching, habitat damage and issues with community members. With this, the animals are left trying to survive in multiple locations. If climate change is not addressed, it will aggravate the identified hazards and could further drive the species over the edge.

Snow leopards are not the only ones at risk as high mountainous areas where the species live stretch over numerous watersheds in the continent. More than 330 million people settle within six miles from the snow leopard habitats and they depend on these areas for water supply everyday.

The report entitled Fragile Connections: Snow leopards, people, water and the global climate, highlighted the need to take steps toward addressing the problem, saying that only less than 14 percent of snow leopard settlements has been included in either research endeavors or conservation efforts.

"Efforts to scale up these efforts are underway," a report from WWF wrote. In 2013, the conservation program in Bishkek was able to urge the 12 snow leopard space states to sign up. The agreement is a sign of unwavering commitment to save the species, as well as the start of fresh collaborations with governments and international groups.

The report was presented on the first International Snow Leopard Day held on Friday, Oct. 23 in Bishkek.

Photo: Kevin Case | Flickr

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