As well as illegal poaching, retaliation killing and habitat loss, a new WWF study just released shows climate change is an increasing threat for snow leopards in the eastern Himalayas. The WWF study shows that if greenhouse gas emissions keep rising steadily, 30% of snow leopard habitat may be lost.
WWF scientist Jessica Forrest, one of the study’s authors, says: “We know snow leopards rarely venture into forested areas, and there’s a limit to how high these animals can ascend (because of lower oxygen levels at higher altitudes).”
The study says “in the Himalayas snow leopards live in high alpine areas, above the tree line and generally below 5,000 meters, where they are able to stealthily track their prey.
Changing conditions in the Himalayas will likely result in forests moving up into alpine areas, the snow leopards’ preferred habitat. If the tree line shifts upward, as our research predicts, we’re looking at the snow leopard being faced with diminishing options.”
The study used both computer-modelling and on-the-ground tracking to predict the impacts of various warming scenarios on the Himalayan portion of the snow leopard range.
Warming at high elevations in the Himalayas is happening faster than the global average. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects temperatures there to increase by 3-4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, accompanied by an increase in annual rainfall.”
The full report from WWF can be read here.