Watch this rare, striking footage of a snow leopard calling out in the wild
If you’ve never heard the call of a snow leopard, take a moment to imagine what that might sound like. A majestic, rumbling lion roar? The throaty snarl of a tiger?
As it turns out, a young male snow leopard sounds a lot like the infamous “Wilhelm Scream” from Hollywood movies. UK wildlife charity The White Lion Foundation released a rare video of a chatty snow leopard as captured by a remote camera in the mountains of northern Pakistan. “The adult male is exercising his vocal calls to establish territory and to let females know he is in the area,” said John Knight, a foundation board member, in a statement on Thursday.
Knight described the footage as “extremely unusual and special.” The leopards’ remote ranges and solitary lifestyle make them elusive subjects in the wild.
Snow leopards are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The foundation estimates the wild population to be between 4,000 and 7,500 cats. The big cats are under threat from poachers and from clashes with livestock herders.
The White Lion Foundation has partnered with the Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organisation in Pakistan to monitor and protect the snow leopard population. The foundation is also working with local communities to build leopard-proof corrals for livestock.
The foundation’s video brings the world a little closer to an elusive animal, and highlights just how wild and wonderful big cats can sound when they want to be heard.
In summer, snow leopards usually live above the tree line on mountainous meadows and in rocky regions at altitudes from 2,700 to 6,000 m (8,900 to 19,700 ft). In winter, they come down into the forests to altitudes around 1,200 to 2,000 m (3,900 to 6,600 ft). Snow leopards prefer rocky, broken terrain, and can travel without difficulty in snow up to 85 cm (33 in) deep, although they prefer to use existing trails made by other animals.
The snow leopard shows several adaptations for living in a cold, mountainous environment. Its small rounded ears help to minimize heat loss. Its broad paws well distribute the body weight for walking on snow, and have fur on their undersides to increase the grip on steep and unstable surfaces; it also helps to minimize heat loss. Its long and flexible tail helps to maintain balance in the rocky terrain. The tail is also very thick due to fat storage, and is very thickly covered with fur, which allows the cat to use it like a blanket to protect its face when asleep.