New Species of Snow Leopard Found

Three sub-species of snow leopard differentiated by geographical location:

1. the Northern group, Panthera uncia irbis, found in the Altai region,

2. the Central group, Panthera uncia uncioides, found in the core Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau,

3. the Western group, Panthera uncia uncia, found in the Tian Shan, Pamir, and trans-Himalaya regions.

This is the first range-wide genetic analysis of wild snow leopard populations.

The snow leopard is considered the world’s most elusive large big cat and inhabits a vast area of around 1.6 million km2 across 12 countries in Asia.

It is a high-altitude specialist that primarily occupies mountains above 3,000m in elevation, a habitat characterized by low oxygen levels, low productivity, temperature extremes, aridity, and harsh climactic conditions.

The snow leopard is the largest carnivore in its high-altitude habitat in many areas and is under substantial threat throughout its range.