Poachers Kill Hundreds Of Endangered Snow Leopards Every Year For “Retaliation” And Fur

Snow leopards are often killed for revenge.

Credit: Briana May

Credit: Briana May

Though people mostly hear about elephants and rhinos being poached for their horns and tusks, there are still a number of other animals around the world that are poached whose lives are just as important because of the rate at which their population is dwindling.

Snow leopards are amongst these animals, and in honor of International Snow Leopard Day, which was on Sunday, the UN convened to have a discussion on how best to approach their conservation. Climate change and habitat loss are major threats to their population in the wild, but poaching is also taking many of their lives at a rate that’s much higher than what was previously thought.

Since poaching often occurs in remote areas, the number of illegally killed snow leopards is typically underreported and the estimated amount of leopards that die at the hands of poachers is believed to be much higher. The current report states that about 221-450 snow leopards are killed by poachers each year, meaning a minimum of 4 per week, since 2008. There are only about 4,000-6,500 left in the wild, with an effective breeding population of 2,500.

A study was conducted to determine the biggest reasons these beautiful animals are poached, and the results were astonishing. Only 21 percent of all poached snow leopards were killed specifically for the illegal trade in their pelts and products. Over half (55%) of poached snow leopards were killed as a result of retaliation for their killed livestock, where farmers saw an opportunity to kill the animal responsible for their livestock’s death and attempted to sell their pelts on the black market to make up for their monetary loss. About 18% used non-specific methods, such as snares, that resulted in the death of a snow leopard.

“We think that what most observations, seizure records and expert opinion shows is that the majority is still happening because of retaliatory killing,” James Compton from Traffic told the BBC. “One of the major interventions to stop that is better protection for livestock, in some of these very remote areas where you have nomad communities and herds of livestock because that’s where the friction takes place.”

Credit: Ramapo College of New Jersey

Credit: Ramapo College of New Jersey

According to Compton, what prompted the investigation is the fact that snow leopards don’t typically show up on the black market as often as one would assume based on the rate they’re killed. As it turns out, it’s because they are most often killed by people that aren’t well-versed in how to sell them illegally.

Though it’s great that it’s now known why they are mainly poached so that methods can be implemented to put an end to it, there is still a long way to go to revamp the species’ numbers. One way everyone can help is to quit buying snow leopard furs, and the fur of any animal while they’re at it. The presence of snow leopards indicates the health of the entire ecosystem. Just like wolves, they play a critical role in the regulation of other species populations and their demise could mean the domination and extinction of other animals in the area.

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