The lucky few who’ve caught a glimpse of a snow leopard have pieced together parts of their fascinating lives; here’s what we know
- In flat areas with little food, a snow leopard’s home range can be two thirds the size of London
- Snow leopards are solitary and so elusive that they’re rarely seen. They leave scent marks to track each other down come breeding season.
- Their tails are long and fluffy, helping them to balance and providing a blanket when they’re resting.
- The diet of a snow leopard consists mainly of mid-sized herbivores like markhors and blue sheep, but they’ll also eat smaller animals like birds and hares. They’re capable of hunting much larger prey too, including camels and horses.
- A snow leopard’s tummy fur is 13 centimetres (five inches) thick in winter to keep the cat warm in the mountains.
- Although it’s not their usual habitat, snow leopards can live at altitudes of more than 6,000 metres (19,7000 feet) above sea level.
- Snow leopards are spread thinly through the mountains of 12 central Asian countries. Their range has been reduced by climate change, and they’re under threat from poachers.
- Unlike tigers and lions, snow leopards can’t roar. They meow, yowl, hiss and make a yelping sound called a chuff.
- Snow leopards have large feet that act like snow shoes, allowing them to move over ice and snow with relative ease.
- Launching themselves with their powerful legs, snow leopards can cover 15 metres (50 feet) in a single leap.
Image: Eric Kilby/flickr