For the first time, footage has been recorded of what is believed to be a common leopard (Panthera pardus) and a snow leopard (Panthera uncia) sharing the same habitat on a more than transitory basis. The findings are noteworthy as it reflects another impact of a changing climate and how this can affect different species. With the common leopard being the bigger and more ecologically-flexible of the two, concern has been raised for the future of snow leopards where living space is shared.
The global wild cat conservation organisation, Panthera, along with partner organisations, released the footage taken in July 2016, and you can watch it here:
Common Leopard & Snow Leopard Sharing Habitat from Panthera Cats on Vimeo.
This incredible content was taken in Zadoi County in the southeast region of the Province of Qinghai, China, on the Tibetan Plateau. The images and video were taken as part of a snow leopard conservation project carried out by Panthera, Snow Leopard Trust, Shan Shui and other partners, which involves surveying snow leopard and prey populations, assessing threats to the cats and working closely with local communities to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
These images show the common and snow leopards in the same location. The fact that one of Panthera’s images is of a female common leopard with a cub suggests to some in the field that the species is now living in the same area rather than just passing through.
Dr Byron Weckworth, China Snow Leopard Program Director, suggested these sort of encounters could become more frequent as the effects of climate change worsen.
“In a changing climate, we expect the tree line to move up the slopes and that’s encroaching into the snow leopard’s habitat,” he said. However, he highlighted that the common leopard is far from the snow leopard’s biggest threat, with the latter being an endangered species as a result of poaching and habitat loss.
“The bigger threat,” noted Dr Weckworth, “is the snow leopard’s habitat loss and its fragmentation.”
As for mating, could these two species interbreed? Dr Weckworth says that, despite some locals believing it to be possible, it’s probably not the case.
“The common leopards there are more pale in colour and that may have sparked that kind of perception among locals. But from a biological point of view, it’s extremely unlikely that they can hybridise.”
Leopards weren’t the only animals in the area, however. Panthera has shared some of the other beautiful stills captured by the camera traps, and you can see some here:
Only a few thousand snow leopards are thought to exist in the wild and, as with so many species, the race is on to save this magnificent animal from extinction. To support the work Panthera does for big cats around the world, visit their website at panthera.org.