Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can We Save the Snow Leopard from Climate Change?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can We Save the Snow Leopard from Climate Change?

Article excerpt

In a report published this week, the World Wildlife Fund suggests the snow leopard is in serious danger from climate change, with as few as 2,500 breeding adults left in the wild.

Their habitat spans across rocky, mountainous terrain in 12 central Asian countries. Climate change will further threaten the already endangered species, by encouraging local communities to migrate up the mountains, into snow leopard territory.

"Increased habitat loss and degradation, poaching and conflict with communities have contributed to a 20 percent decline in the population in the past 16 years and left the species barely hanging on in many places," the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement. "Unchecked, climate change will exacerbate these threats and could push the species over the edge."

A warming climate will force original tree line patterns up the mountains, and local farmers will also climb to higher altitudes to raise their crops and livestock. These northern shifts will continue to squeeze the snow leopards into smaller habitats, as they are forced to accommodate new human settlements.

There is also the issue of water resources."It is not just snow leopards that are at risk," the statement reads, "since their high- altitude habitat spans many of Asia's major watersheds," with over 330 million people dependent on local rivers to survive. The World Wildlife Fund suggests climate change could drastically change the mountains' water flow in the high-altitude habitats of the snow leopard, endangering humans, leopards, and countless other species.

But "we don't have to choose between humans or the giant cats," Brad Rutherford, executive director of the Snow Leopard Trust, told CBS News. "Helping snow leopards means you are helping humans," he says. "People share that landscape with those cats."

Because the snow leopard's habitat expands across 12 countries, future conservation efforts will paint a picture of what international species protection might look like. …

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