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Report Says Numbers Of Snow Leopards Decline Mainly Due to 'Retaliation'

There are now only a few thousand snow leopards living in the wild. (file photo)

The wildlife-trade monitoring network TRAFFIC warns that hundreds of endangered snow leopards are being killed illegally each year across the high mountain ranges of Asia.

Some 4,000 of these elusive big cats are estimated to be living in the wild across 12 countries that sweep around the Himalayan and Tibetan plateaus.

Experts say between 221 and 450 snow leopards have been poached annually since 2008 -- a minimum of 4 per week.

But a report published by TRAFFIC on October 21 says that number could be "substantially higher" since many killings in remote areas go undetected.

The report found that the majority of snow leopards are killed in retaliation for attacks on livestock (55 percent), while just 21 percent are poached specifically for the illegal trade in their pelts and products.

The authors also say a "steep decline" in the number of snow leopards observed in trade and in markets, particularly in China, suggest that "demand could be falling -- perhaps due to increased enforcement."

The report calls on governments to "mitigate human-wildlife conflict by preventing snow leopards from killing livestock, offsetting the costs of livestock losses, and expanding community-based conservation programs."

It also recommends "strengthening national and transboundary law enforcement," saying less than a quarter of known cases of poaching were investigated and only 14 percent were prosecuted.

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