New Study Defines Priorities for Global Snow Leopard Conservation Landscapes

In 2012 Dr. Li Juan became the first female scientist to earn a PhD in zoology with a focus on snow leopard conservation. She continued to pursue a post doc at University of California, Berkeley and has recently published a new paper in collaboration with scientists from around the world. Here Dr. Li Juan shares with us her new study recently published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Snow leopards live in the mountains of Central Asia. While their habitat range covers 2 million km2 (approximately the size of Greenland or Mexico!), we estimate that less than 7000 snow leopards are left in the wild. There is, however, uncertainty about the snow leopard’s current distribution, as there is about the size of the total snow leopard population.

The new study brings together researchers from around the world and presents the most up to date mapping of snow leopard distribution. This work used more than 6000 snow leopard occurrence points to build the snow leopard habitat model. For the first time it includes occurrence locations from China’s Xinjiang and Tibet Autonomous Region.

Extracted from the Juan et al. 2020. The proposed priority areas.

The study also identifies seven snow leopard conservation areas and ten corridors that need to be prioritized for the conservation of snow leopards. Each area faces different threat levels from poaching, anthropogenic development, and climate change. This work not only helps us prioritize where we should focus our limited conservation resources for global snow leopard conservation, but also proposed a set of conservation strategies and highlights the importance of working across nations and borders of snow leopard range countries. It highlights how international border fences, railways and major roads can fragment these priority areas and potentially obstruct linkages.

“The biggest challenge was developing an agreed method for verifying each snow leopard presence point” shares Dr. Li Juan, “I hope that the scientific community can continue to work together and refine our understanding of the cats distribution in order to inform measure to protect them”.

Learn more about the lead author Li Juan:

Read the publication, “Defining priorities for global snow leopard conservation landscapes”:

We give special thanks to our collaborators, including Panthera, Shanshui conservation center, WCS, Snow Leopard Trust, Snow Leopard Conservancy, Green River, Wild Xinjiang, Chinese Felid Conservation Alliance, WWF, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences and many members of the Snow Leopard Network.

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