Photograph by: Steve Winter, National Geographic June 2008
One of the most beautiful cats and, no surprise, endangered like many of his cousins is the Snow Leopard (panthera uncia). Reigns and roams the highest and most rugged landscapes on earth shrouded with clouds, white snow, poetry and mystery. As Don Hunter writes:
The seven great ramparts of central Asia present one of the most formidable and foreboding environments in the world. Their names alone evoke a sense of wonderment: Altai, Pamir, Tien Shan, Kun Lun, Hindu Kush, Karakorum, and the mighty Himalaya. Here, in the land where the snow leopard finds comfort, humans can suffer frostbite and sunburn at the same time.
After reading a book and several articles about this endearing cat, three images (or facts, or ideas?) linger in our mind, constructed by our imagination and emotional reaction:
- Given the high altitude and ruggedness of the terrain of their habitat, snow leopards do not enter into conflict with humans as often as other cat species, like tigers for example. However, at the same time, the humans they encounter live in small communities that represent the frontier that divide wildlife and human settlement. These communities, these families live in conditions of extreme poverty and their main form of subsistence is herding livestock.
- The might of the Panthera Uncia: snow leopards sometimes seem to be possessed by pure energy and plunge into a frenzy of killing. There has been cases in which a single snow leopard has killed over 100 livestock in one night. A devastating blow for the humans that rely on their livestock for food.
- And this one… our heart aches when we try to imagine it: snow leopards do not attack humans. Unlike tigers or lions, there must be something in their brain wiring that prevents them from harming people. So, many times, they are chased and cornered by humans, and stoned to death without offering any resistance 🙁 not cool humans, not cool.