Taking photos of wildlife is one of my favourite things to do, and I can often be found lurking outside enclosures at zoos and animal sanctuaries, waiting for the perfect shot. It requires a calm demeanour, patience and a steady paw to trigger that shutter at precisely the right moment! I particularly enjoy taking pictures of big cats because they’re part of my extensive feline family and I’m fascinated by the similarity of their mannerisms to mine.
I’ve spent many happy hours watching the snow leopards at Marwell in Hampshire yawning, stretching, playing and grooming. However, like most cats, they spend an enormous amount of time snoozing, hence the need for patience and stealth when trying to capture an exciting moment. Like the time I caught on camera the snow leopard cubs born in April 2013 as they took their first steps outside of their den close to proud parents Irina (mum) and Indeever (dad).
Unfortunately, these magnificent creatures are in trouble, and only humans can help. It saddens me to say that the World Wildlife Fund estimate there are only 4,000 to 6,500 snow leopards left alive today in the wild and numbers are dwindling as a result of poaching, hunting, climate change, and loss of habitat and natural prey. However, an international forum was established last year to outline urgent actions and a global strategy to conserve these rare animals and you can read more about that in an article I found in the South China Morning Post this week.
I love the idea of humans from different countries working together to protect the snow leopards and I have no doubt that their combined efforts will have other positive consequences such as preserving biodiversity, protecting other endangered species, supporting rural development and managing wildlife honourably.
Did you know that snow leopards hiss, meow and growl but don’t roar like other big cats? They live in the cold high mountains across Europe and Central Asia in countries such as Afghanistan, China, India, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia and Kazakhstan. Their white-grey coats help them blend in with the steep rocky terrain and their long tails and powerful builds provide balance and help them stay warm.