August 3, 2012

0297 BHUTAN – Snow leopard

Solitary snow leopard (Panthera uncia) roam the harsh mountain terrain of Central Asia, and can be seen in 12 countries, respectively in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Smaller than the other big cats, it has long thick fur, and its base colour varies from smoky gray to yellowish tan, with dark gray to black open rosettes on body, small spots of the same color on head and larger spots on legs and tail. Unlike other big cats, it has pale green or gray eyes, and... can't roar.

It can kill animals three to four times their size, being capable to kill all animals in its range, probable with the exception of the adult male Yaks (which can reach a weight ton). And don't forget that it's a solitary animal, that hunts alone. But it's also an opportunistic feeders, eating whatever meat they can find, including carrion and domestic livestock.

Unfortunately, it was intense hunted for its beautiful, warm fur and for its organs, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, so since 1972 it's listed as "endangered" in IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. Eric Campbell wrote in 2009 for ABC, in an article entitled Cats in the Clouds: "Long before people came, the Himalaya was the domain of the snow leopard. It’s a shy creature that fears people, but it’s the ruler of the natural world. As the highest predator on the mountain food chain, it’s overseen a delicate balance of nature, in which people have co-existed for centuries. But thanks to the actions of Man, it’s dying out."

The population of snow leopard is suspected to have declined by at least 20% over the past two generations (16 years), and now is a rare sight, with only 4,000-6,000 individuals left in the wild (in Buthan seem to be 100-200). Probably because China has the largest population of this feline (2,000-2,500), but also a illegal trade which increased rapidly along with its economic power, it organized in Beijing, in 2008, an International Conference on Range-wide Conservation Planning for snow leopards. Its intentions seem sincere, since, for exemple, in 2010 "a pair of Chinese herdsmen who trapped and stoned to death a rare snow leopard for attacking their sheep have been sentenced to up to ten years in prison". Stopping killing snow leopards isn't sufficient to preserve the specie, but is also necessary to preserve their natural habitat, and the prey that they needs. There are currently 20 protected areas where live these felines, between which one is in Buthan, namely Jigme Dorji National Park.

The stamp, depicting Lungerma, is part of Textiles of Bhutan series, about which I wrote here.

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday #127, hosted on Beth's blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy. Click on the button below to visit all the other participants.

Snow leopard - Wikipedia
Panthera uncia - The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 
Cats in the Clouds, by Eric Campbell - ABC News
Snow leopard - WWF Global
Bhutan Year Pack 2009 - Bhutan Philately

sender: Mukul Bhowmik (direct swap)
sent from Thimphu (Buthan), on 05.06.2012


  1. Beautiful creature, and great facts. Happy PFF

  2. My bucket list includes:

    -seeing a snow leopard and a white tiger for real

    Thanks for the post, a photo would do for now! :D

    Happy weekend!

  3. It is a beautiful postcard, just because of the animal. I love snow leopards and find them one of the most beautiful animals that roam our planet.