Snow Leopards Are Disappearing, Here's Why It Matters For Humans

Photo: Dudley Zoo/Rex/REX USA
The World Wildlife Fund released a report saying that the snow leopard population has gone down 20% in the past 16 years to about 4,500, and climate change stands to make things worse.

For the policymakers out there, the WWF has another point about these endangered creatures: Their habitat, the frozen, mountainous areas of Central Asia, is upstream of 330 million people who depend on the water from those mountains. That means that whatever destroys the habitat of the snow leopard is also threatening the well-being of those people.

The report states that as climate change causes temperatures to rise, more farmers begin to encroach on the formerly frozen region, reducing the habitat for the snow leopards' natural prey and increasing the likelihood of conflict between the cats and humans. Higher temperatures would melt the permafrost and snow, disrupting the natural rate of water flow to regions downstream. The higher mountain regions would also become drier, which endangers humans' food supply.

The good news is that there is a plan of action to protect the snow leopards. The 12 countries with natural snow leopard habitats have even agreed to it; they just haven't really gotten around to implementing it. The WWF states that reducing greenhouse gases by taking "ambitious and urgent action" worldwide is an important step, as is the cooperation of worldwide governments, NGOs, and academics to increase "efforts to build a range-wide understanding of snow leopards and their habitats."

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