They’re the kings and queens of the central Asia mountains. They’re fluffy and cute when they’re young and become strikingly beautiful as they mature. They’re ferocious hunters and predators. So what is the cause for alarm regarding these consummate cats?
They’re almost gone.
Snow leopards are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, with only an estimated 3,500 to 7,000 left in the wild. However, because of people like Rodney Jackson, all hope is not lost. Jackson is the founder and director of the Snow Leopard Conservancy and two-time nominee for the Indianapolis Prize, the world’s largest monetary award for animal conservation. He has devoted the last 30 years of his life to studying and tracking snow leopards to further his conservation plan.
With the help of radio collars and hidden cameras, he has gathered inexplicably useful information about snow leopards and their lifestyles that can help prevent some unnecessary deaths of these ferocious felines.
But snow leopards aren’t just lying around. They’re very difficult to find, particularly because there are so few of them. How does Jackson track them? Snow leopards have scent glands beneath their tails that they use to mark their territory by spraying on nearby rocks and bushes. They also scrape their back legs on rocks to spread the scent — it gives a slightly different twist to scratch and sniff!
Jackson oftentimes uses this scent to track them by — you guessed it — smelling the rocks in his path! It's not a glamorous job, but Jackson has collected a great deal of valuable information through his rock-smelling endeavors. He may even hold the record for smelling rocks! But who's counting.
Thanks to people like Rodney Jackson, the future of snow leopard conservation continues to look more and more promising.