Snow Leopard

(Uncia uncia)




Facts about this animal

The snow leopard is the only large cat living exclusively in high mountain ranges, and it is perfectly adapted to this environment. Its light-greyish pelt, tinged with yellow and patterned with dark grey rosettes and spots provides excellent camouflage for its surroundings of bare rocks and snow. Further adaptations for high altitude life include an enlarged nasal cavity, shortened limbs, well-developed chest muscles for climbing, long hair with dense, woolly underfur , which grows as long as 12 cm on the belly, and a tail up to one meter long, which aids balance and wrapped around the body keeps the animal warm when resting. Snow leopards molt twice a year, but the summer coat differs little from the winter in density and length. . Male snow leopards are larger than females, with average weights between 45-55 kg as opposed to 35-40 kg for females.


Snow leopards predate mainly on mountain ungulates such as wild sheep, blue sheep, Asian ibex and markhor, but they hunt also small mammals like pikas or hares, and gamebirds. They can cause considerable damage tolivestock, which doesn't make them very popular with local herdsmen.

Did you know?
that the snow leopard cannot make the low and intense "roars" of which the other big cats are capable? This is because its vocal fold is less developed than in other pantherines, lacking a thick pad of fibro-elastic tissue.


Name (Scientific) Uncia uncia
Name (English) Snow Leopard
Name (French) Panthère des neiges, Once
Name (German) Schneeleopard, Irbis
Name (Spanish) Leopardo nival, Pantera de la nieves
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Appendix I



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Range Central Asia
Habitat Mountains, arid and semi-arid shrubland, grassland or steppe
Wild population Approx. 3'500-7'000 (1996)
Zoo population 373 reported to ISIS

In the Zoo

Snow Leopard


How this animal should be transported

Transport crates should be sufficiently large to meet legal requirements, sufficiently strong to prevent escape or damage to the crate and animal, and have an adequate number of handles. Basic design should allow free flow of air through multiple sides of the container. A double door design on each end of the crate should be used. The "inner" door on each end should have bars to contain the animal, and the "outer" door should consist of a thin panel of expanded metal that provides safety for the handlers. The doors on each end of the crate should travel vertically to facilitate animal transfer and contain a secure locking system. The crate should drain well, and absorbent bedding should be used to prevent the animal from being exposed to or lying in urine or excreta. The crate should be of a size that allows easy lifting, transport and movement through doorways.


The shipment should be organised in a way to minimise stress. The animal should have access to its transport crate for 2 weeks before shipment, preferably being fed within it. If an extended trip is anticipated, water and eventually food should be provided while the animal is in transit. Ideally one of the animal's keepers should accompany it during transport, providing for its care and helping it adjust to the new environment.


For air transport, Container Note 72 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Gunnar Ries Amphibol

Why do zoos keep this animal

The snow leopard is a vulnerable species with a small total population. It was and still is illegally hunted for its fur. In 1971, when CITES was not yet in existence, an International Studbook was established under the WAZA umbrella, and zoos maintain now a self-sustained reserve population managed under several regional conservation breeding programmes. The snow leopard, being a highly specialized cat species is also an interesting subject for environmental education. It is a good ambassador for mountain ecosystem it inhabits and the threatened species occurring in these areas.