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Snow Leopard
Story By: Jason Abels Assistant Director,
Tigerhomes Animal Sanctuary

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Snow Leopard
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The Snow Leopard is perhaps one of the most beautiful of all the BIG CATS! Found mainly in Afghanistan and Tibet, Snow Leopards inhabit high rocky mountainous elevations in the summer. A Snow Leopard's fur coat is typically creamy white to gray with scattered black leopard spots or Leopard Rosettes. These spots or rosettes are very similar to that of the African Leopard and that of the Asian Leopard, only they are primarily black over creamy gray instead of being over yellow, orange or even reddish fur.

Snow Leopards are an extremely rare species of leopard and are classified as an Endangered Species by the USDI and the Soviet Union, SPECIES by the USDI and the Soviet Union, and are listed on APPENDIX ONE with CITIES. They estimate that there is less than 11,000 individuals left in the wild with less then 400 captive leopards represented in zoological facilitites. David and I both have been very fortunate to have worked with this truly remarkable feline in the past. Stereotypically, the Snow Leopard along with the Clouded Leopard and the African Spotted Cheetah Snow Leopardare incredibly more relaxed and calm in nature. This is not to say that they are tame or trust worthy in ANYWAY! They are not! It is just that of all the BIG CATS, these species tend to be more at ease and relaxed and are less apt to constantly go for the “DEATH BITE” on ya ;-)! To those of us that are fortunate enough to have the privilege to do what we love and to work with nature’s most remarkable creatures, this fact is extra interesting, particularly concerning the Leopard species. African and Asian Leopards in general are notoriously tough cats to deal with. These cats usually establish a relationship with only one animal handler and are typically aggressive with attitude. Leopards always go for the bite, while tigers are content sometimes to just hold onto you. Anyhow, tiger and leopard behavior is another subject that I will write about in our “Education Center ”.

Snow Leopards are classified as PANTHERA UNICA. Some scientists feel that the Snow Leopard should be reclassified as something other than “PANTHERA”. This is due to little know anatomical feature surrounding the cats HYOID APPARATUS. Other members of Panthera have an elastic cartilage band that covers a gap in the incompletely ossified HYIOD BONE. It is believed that this elastic apparatus (SMALL CATS do not possess) is what is makes roaring possible while limiting purring only to times of exhaling (small cats can purr while inhaling & exhaling). The mystery in the theory is that the Snow Leopard (Panthera unica) does not roar even though it does possess this elastic structure on its hyoid apparatus. This is not to say that the Snow Leopard does not communicate vocally, they certainly do. Snow Leopard vocalizations are varied. Even though they do not roar, they do produce many sounds including chirps and a characteristic “LOUD MOAN”.

Like the tiger, the snow leopard is primarily a solitary animal even though they are know to be very social at times with other members of their own kind. Like the Siberian Tiger, the Snow Leopard requires large home ranges of habitat. Baby Snow Leopard are usually born from April to Mid-June. A normal snow leopard gestation period averages about 101 days were 1 to 5 baby leopards are born in a rocky den. Assuming the babies survive, they will become sexually mature in 2 to 3 years.

We hope you found this information interesting and informative. We hope to be posting some great SNOW LEOPARD PICTURES including PICTURES OF BABY SNOW LEOPARDS up soon. In the meantime, take the time to enjoy the Sanctuary’s multiple WEB CAMERAS set up in the large NATURALISTIC HABITATS of AFRICAN LIONS, SIBERIAN TIGERS, GOLDEN TIGERS, BLACK AND WHITE RUFFED LEMURS, RED RUFFED LEMURS, RING TAILED LEMURS, BROWN LEMURS and our brand new LEOPARD CAM were you can now observe Sampson, the Sanctuary’s adult male AFRICAN LEOPARD.

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