The trading of big cat pelts is nothing new, but recent demand for snow leopard pelts and taxidermy mounts has added a new commodity to the illegal trade in wildlife products, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Traditionally, the market for large cat products has centered around tiger bones and parts for traditional Chinese medicine. Snow leopards (Uncia uncia), however, are a novel trend in the illegal wildlife trade arena and skins and taxidermy mounts are the most recent fad in luxury home décor.
The EIA, a UK-based non-profit organization whose mission is to investigate crimes to the environment, are concerned that attention to the plight of snow leopards is compromised because of the global conservation focus on tigers. While tiger poaching is a rampant threat, the EIA estimates that for every tiger poached, approximately six leopards are taken, including snow leopards.
Experts have estimated that there are between 4,000 and 6,000 snow leopards left in the wild, making them one of Asia’s most endangered mammals. This estimate was calculated several years ago, however, and it is believed that the number today is significantly lower.