Wildlife Species of the Week

THE GENUS PANTHERA

The Panthera lineage consists of five cats which are the largest in the cat family.

The five cats of the Panthera genus are the Tiger, Jaguar, Leopard, Lion and Snow Leopard. The first four big cats in the Panthera genus are the only wild cats that have the ability to roar, however they cannot purr like most other cats. The fifth cat, the snow leopard, is the big cat exception in this genus that cannot roar.

These big cats are also the most endangered due to the loss and fragmentation of their large territories, and wildlife trade in their body parts and beautiful skins.  These species exhibit the most diverse fur pattern of all terrestrial carnivores. These cats have retractile claws, slender muscular bodies and strong flexible forelimbs. Their teeth and facial muscles allow for a powerful bite. They are all obligate carnivores, and most are solitary predators ambushing or stalking their prey.

In September, we shall be discussing the Genus – Panthera of the Family Felidae.

SNOW LEOPARD (Panthera unica)

Snow leopards, commonly known as ounce, play a key role as both top predator and as an indicator of the health of its high-altitude habitat. If snow leopards thrive, so will countless other species. Snow leopards have evolved to live in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. Their white-gray coat spotted with large black rosettes blends in perfectly with the steep and rocky mountains of Central Asia. The snow leopard’s powerful build allows it to scale great steep slopes with ease. Its hind legs give the snow leopard the ability to leap six times the length of its body. A long tail provides balance and agility and also wraps around the resting snow leopard as protection from the cold.

In 2017 the global conservation status of Snow Leopards was changed from Endangered to Vulnerable, primarily as estimates exceeded the Endangered threshold of 2500 mature adults. The populations appear to have stabilized yet there are still many threats across its vast range. The sole predator of snow leopards are Humans. Hunting, habitat loss, and retaliatory killings are the main reasons this big cat is under threat.

Snow leopards are often killed by local farmers in retaliation because they prey on livestock such as sheep, goats, horses, and yak calves. The snow leopard habitat range continues to decline from human settlement and increased use of grazing space. This development increasingly fragments the historic range of the species.