Snow leopards are one of the most emblematic species of the Central Asian mountains.
Yet their habitats are under unprecedented pressure due to climate change and related drivers such as land-use change and habitat degradation, shift, fragmentation or loss, as well as increased human-wildlife conflict.
Rising temperatures are forcing livestock such as goats and yak calves to move further uphill to graze, thereby encroaching on snow leopard territory. Glaciers that support snow leopards are also retreating.
As a result, two thirds of the habitats of this majestic species are expected to be lost by 2070. In some countries, the figure rises to up to 80%.
In response, new work led by UN Environment aims to stem the effects of climate change on mountain species in Central Asia and other regions.
The Vanishing Treasures project, funded by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, aims to improve and share solutions for wildlife management that takes climate change into account. These solutions will follow an ecosystem-based approach and may include creating movement corridors for species and restoring fauna. Sustainable land use practices that reduce pressure on species will furthermore be promoted.
This week, Sabrina Wanjiku Simader - the first Olympic Kenyan skier and a new UN Environment Mountain Hero – debuted at the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea. She is helping raise awareness of the threats faced by snow leopards and competes wearing the big cat’s colours.
“Our mountains are changing due to climate change, which is causing glaciers to retreat and threatening biodiversity, including species like the iconic snow leopard. I wanted to become more engaged to protect these fragile and vulnerable regions,” says Simader.
Read more on our new ‘Vanishing Treasures’ work here, which contributes to Sustainable Development Goals for people, species and planet. Meet our new Mountain Hero here and learn more about the effects of climate change on Central Asian mountains and policy solutions here.
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