Map of snow leopard range
- There may be 4,500 – 7,500 snow leopards left in the wild
- Snow Leopards are confirmed to live in 12 countries of Central Asia.
- Their range covers 1.2-1.6 million sq. km. (463,000-618,000 sq. mi.)
- A snow leopard’s home range can be as little as 12 sq.km. (4.6 sq.mi.) in productive habitat, to 500 or more sq.km. in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia
- Up to a third of the snow leopard’s range falls along international borders. Relations between some of the countries are hostile, complicating conservation initiatives.
Snow leopards occur in the mountains of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and possibly also Myanmar (Burma). Their range covers 1.2 to 1.6 million km² at elevations of 3,000 to over 5,000 m (10,000 – 17,000 feet) in the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau, but as low as 600 m (2,000 feet) in Russia and Mongolia. This equals an area of 463,000 – 618,000 square miles, nearly equivalent to the nations of France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined.
Snow leopards prefer steep, rugged terrain with cliffs, ridges, gullies, and slopes interspersed with rocky outcrops. In Mongolia and Tibet the cats may inhabit relatively flat or rolling terrain if sufficient cover is present. In productive habitat in Nepal, a snow leopard’s home range varies from 12 to 39 km² (4.6 – 15 square miles). But in Mongolia with its open terrain and lower ungulate density, it is 500 km² or more (over 200 square miles). Densities range from less than 0.1 to 10 (or more) individuals per 100 km² (about 39 square miles) but current knowledge is insufficient for generating a reliable range-wide population estimate. The cat’s habitat is among the least productive of the world’s rangelands due to low temperatures, high aridity and harsh climatic conditions.
Total numbers are estimated at 4,500-7,500. Snow leopards are protected in nearly all countries under national and international laws. They are listed in Appendix 1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1977), which sets strict regulations on export or import of animals or their body parts. Only Tajikistan is not signatory to the CITES agreement.
Up to a third of the snow leopard’s range falls along international borders, some of which are politically sensitive, complicating transboundary conservation initiatives. In fact, there have been several wars over the last 50 years, along with low-intensity factional or international conflicts that continue today in countries like Afghanistan. See the country pages of this website for the Snow Leopard Conservancy’s program areas.