On International Snow Leopard Day 2015, the WWF has released never-before-seen footage of the endangered species and a report showing a third of its habitat is at risk from climate change. The images and video were taken in Nepal and Mongolia with a camera trap, and show a mother and her cubs and a young group playing in the snow.
Over the past 16 years, there has been a 20% decline in the snow leopard population. The threat to the species is highlight in the report Fragile Connections: Snow Leopards, People, Water And The Global Climate. In it, the WWF call for urgent action to protect the snow leopard and its environment, while also providing water to hundreds of millions of people across Asia.
Rebecca May, WWF-UK's snow leopard programme lead, said: "The Himalayas region will face a major crisis if we choose to ignore climate change. Not only do we risk losing majestic species such as the snow leopard, but hundreds of millions of people who rely on water flowing from these mountains may be affected. To avoid these potentially devastating impacts, WWF is campaigning for a strong and effective deal at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December."
It is estimated there are just 4,000 snow leopards left and this number is continuing to decline. Experts say warmer temperatures resulting from climate change could impact the species' habitat by causing the tree line to shift up the mountain, with farmers moving into higher altitudes. This will force snow leopards into smaller ranges, where they will likely be seen as a threat to livestock and humans.
The report shows how just 14% of the snow leopard habitat is currently covered by conservation or research. The WWF is now encouraging governments and organisations to increase their efforts to preserve the species – including the need to address climate change, poaching, trafficking and conflict.
Rishi Kumar Sharma, WWF global snow leopard leader, said: "Reversing the downward trend in snow leopard numbers and conserving their fragile habitat require conservation efforts on an unparalleled scale. It will be difficult to achieve but the momentum and political will exists: governments must now translate this into action by swiftly scaling up their efforts to save the ghost of the mountains."