Snow leopards are no longer endangered

Snow leopard / ounce (Panthera uncia / Uncia uncia) resting on rock in the Planckendael Zoo, Belgium. (Photo by: Arterra/UIG via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

Snow leopards are no longer in immediate danger of extinction, and have been reclassified from endangered to vulnerable.

The new classification comes after a three-year assessment by five experts into the population of the cats.

The snow leopard was first placed on the endangered list in 1972. The classification meant that at the time there were less than 2,500 mature snow leopards and they were experiencing a high rate of decline.

The new classification means that there are currently fewer than 10,000 snow leopards and the rate of decline has slowed.

A difficult habitat makes snow leopards hard to track.
A difficult habitat makes snow leopards hard to track. Photo credit: Getty

Dr Tom McCarthy, director of the snow leopard programme at Panthera was one of the experts involved in the reclassification. 

"It does not mean that snow leopards are 'safe' or that now is a time to celebrate," he told the BBC.

"The species still faces a high risk of extinction in the wild, and is likely still declining - just not at the rate previously thought."

Conservation efforts have helped slow the decline of the snow leopard population.
Conservation efforts have helped slow the decline of the snow leopard population. Photo credit: Getty

The challenges faced by snow leopards include retaliation killings from farmers, illegal fur trade, declining prey and a loss of habitat.

It's challenging to put a precise number on the current snow leopard population due to their difficult habitat and secretive nature, but current estimates place the population between 2,710 and 3,386.

Newshub.