Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) - Wiki
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[Photo] Snow leopard, an endangered species, is found in the Khunjerab National Park. Photo by Aaron Logan (www.lightmatter.net)
The Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia or Panthera uncia), also known in some instances as the Ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of central and south Asia. The taxonomic position of this species has been subject to change. In the past, many taxonomists included the snow leopard in the genus Panthera, with several of the other largest felids, but later it was placed in its own genus, Uncia. However, most recent molecular studies place the species firmly within the genus Panthera, although the exact position remains unclear. Along with the Clouded Leopard, it represents an intermediate between so-called big cats and smaller specimens as it can neither roar nor purr. Well known for its beautiful fur, the snow leopard has a soft grey coat with ringed spots and rosettes of black on brown. Its tail is heavy with fur and the bottom of its paws are covered with fur for protection against snow and cold.
Weighing up to 75 kilograms, the snow leopard can be distinguished from other similar species by its proportionately longer tail, which helps it maintain its balance on the rugged terrain and unstable surfaces of its habitat. The snow leopard's tail also doubles as a warmth cover and is used to cover its nose and mouth in very cold conditions. The male's head is usually much squarer and wider than the female's. Its big furry feet act as snowshoes, like those of the lynx. In summer they usually live above the tree-line on mountainous meadows and in rocky regions at an altitude of up to 6000 m. In winter they come down into the forests at an altitude of about 2000 m. Snow leopards lead largely solitary lives, although mothers can rear cubs for extended periods of time in a cave den in the mountains.
Snow Leopards have grey-and-white fur with numerous rosettes on the flanks and spots on the head and neck, similar to jaguars. Their tails are striped. They are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever meat they may find; they often kill animals three times their size, including domestic livestock. Snow leopards may also ambush prey from above when possible, as they can jump as far as 15 metres. The snow leopard's agility often proves helpful when ambushing prey and traversing through mountains. Their diet consists of ibex, Bharal, Markhor, Urial, boars, as well as marmots and other small rodents.
Snow Leopard in Heraldry
The snow leopard (almost invariably known in heraldry as the Ounce) (Aq Bars) is a national symbol for Tatars and Kazakhs: a snow leopard is found on the official seal of the city of Almaty, and a winged snow leopard is found on Tatarstan's coat of arms. The Snow Leopard award was given to Soviet mountaineers who summited all five of the Soviet Union's 7000m peaks. In addition, the snow leopard is the symbol of the Girl Scout Association of Kyrgyzstan.
^ a b Cat Specialist Group (2002). Uncia uncia. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006.
^ a b Johnson, W.E., Eizirik, E., Pecon-Slattery, J., Murphy, W.J., Antunes, A., Teeling, E. & O'Brien, S.J. 2006. The Late Miocene radiation of modern Felidae: A genetic assessment. Science 311: 73-77; access date = September 26, 2006
^ a b Snow Leopard Trust. 2006. Habitat and Range. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
^ UNESCO World Heritage Centre Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks. Brief Description. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
^ a b Snow Leopard Conservancy. 2006. Training park managers in the conservation of snow leopards. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
^ UNESCO World Heritage Center. Sagarmatha National Park: Brief Description. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
^ Snow Leopard Network. 2005. Camera Trapping of Snow Leopards in the Muzat Valley. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
^ Snow Leopard Trust. 2006. Exciting Milestone Reached In Collaring Project. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
^ Leo the snow leopard is US-bound
^ Snow Leopard Network. 2005. Snow Leopard population in Ladakh sees phenomenal rise. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
^ BBC Science Nature. 2005. Dalai Lama campaigns for wildlife. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
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