While the snow leopard is a top predator in its mountain ecosystem, human activities pose serious threats to these cats and their habitat.

Once largely protected by the very inaccessibility of its habitat and the elusiveness of its behavior, snow leopards today face mounting threats that have shifted the species’ status from rare to endangered.

Growing human populations and development—mines, roads, and dams—are pushing into snow leopard habitat. And despite the snow leopard’s cultural relevance, when the cat clashes with humans and their livestock, it goes from paragon to pest in herders’ perceptions. Moreover, some covet its stunning pelt as appropriate for fashion and décor; in some Western countries cloth with faux snow leopard stripes is popular, a fad that may stimulate demand for real fur. So some snow leopards are killed in retaliation for livestock losses and for illegal trade in skins and other products.

Threats to snow leopards, wild prey, and their ecosystems

Key to scores: Low threat=1-5; Medium threat=6-10; High threat=11-15

Country codes: AFG = Afghanistan / BTN = Bhutan / CHN = China / IND = India / MNG = Mongolia / NPL = Nepal / PAK = Pakistan / RUS = Russia / KGZ = Kyrgyz Republic / KAZ = Kazakhstan / TJK = Tajikistan / UZB = Uzbekistan

Threats AFG BTN CHN IND MNG NPL PAK RUS KGZ KAZ TJK UZB Mean
Category 1: Habitat and Prey Related
Habitat Degradation 11 5 6 10 7 9 11 3 9 6 6 11 8.2
Habitat Fragmentation 10 2 11 6 8 10 10 0 6 9 0 7 6.3
Prey Reduction due to Illegal Hunting 13 5 0 6 11 11 15 11 15 11 14 14 11.0
Prey Reduction due to Competition with Livestock 11 8 6 8 14 9 13 7 14 7 12 14 10.7
Prey Reduction due to Legal Hunting 0 0 11 0 5 3 3 6 10 9 0 0 3.0
Prey Reduction due to Disease 4 5 6 8 6 6 12 0 4 3 7 7 5.7
Fencing that Disrupts Movements/Natural Migration 3 0 11 8 3 3 3 0 3 3 6 0 3.6
Category 2: Direct Killing or Removal of Snow Leopards
Retribution for Livestock Depredation 13 6 10 8 11 12 14 8 6 12 8 8 9.7
Poaching for Trade in Hides or Bones 9 6 8 6 6 9 12 10 15 11 11 9 9.3
Zoo and Museum Collection of Live Animals 0 0 0 0 0 6? 0 0 2 3 3 5 1.1
Traditional Hunting of Snow Leopards 0 3 3 0 4 3 0 0 0 6 1 9 2.4
Secondary Poisoning and Trapping of Snow Leopards 3 7 6 6 7 9 6 14 9 10 4 0 6.7
Diseases of Snow Leopards 1 5 6 8 5 5 11 0 3 3 2 2 4.3
Potential Threat from Legal Hunting of Snow Leopards 0 0 0 0 6 1 5 0 5 0 0 0 1.4
Category 3: Policy and Awareness Issues Affecting
Conservation of Snow Leopards, Prey, and Habitat
Lack of Appropriate Policy 13 8 10 10 6 3 9 15 14 3 8 12 9.2
Lack of Effective Enforcement 14 5 12 12 13 7 13 15 15 12 12 12 11.8
Lack of Transboundary Cooperation 9 11 12 8 9 8 9 6 9 7 9 12 9.1
Lack of Institutional Capacity 14 10 10 12 12 9 13 12 12 3 10 12 10.7
Lack of Awareness Among Local People 8 9 9 12 14 10 13 12 13 10 8 12 10.8
Lack of Awareness Among Policy Makers 14 10 10 12 12 3 11 9 13 3 12 12 10.1
Category 4: Other Issues
War and Related Military Activities 9 0 8 9 0 6 9 0 4 0 1 0 3.8
Human Population Growth (Rapid) / Poverty (Indirect Threat) 10 5 7 7 6 3 10 0 12 3 10 11 7.0
Feral Dogs Attacking Snow Leopards and Prey 1 10 5 11 3 4 7 0 0 1 2 7 4.2
Poaching and Wildlife Trade by Migrant Workers 3 2 5 10 3 8 11 0 8 9 1 0 5.0
Poaching by Military Personnel 13 6 0 7 3 0 9 6 15 8 11 9 7.2
Emerging Threats
Climate Change 10 12 10 10 12 12 11 9 4 3 10 15 9.8
Growing Livestock Populations and Intensifying Human-Wildlife Conflict 11 13 12 10 13 9 15 9 13 10 15 15 12.1
Large-scale Development Projects 1 0 12 10 10 11 10 7 5 6 10 0 6.8
    -Direct and Indirect Impacts due to Mineral Exploration/Mining (Local) 1 0 12 7 10 5 9 11 12 3 12 0 6.8
    -Impacts due to Hydroelectric Projects 0 6 7 5 5 12 9 0 3 3 6 0 4.7
    -Impacts due to Roads or Railroads 0 0 10 11 11 9 9 0 6 9 3 0 5.7
    -Disturbance Related to Cordyceps Collection 0 12 10 7 0 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.4