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Nepal Accelerates Efforts To Protect Rare Himalayan Snow Leopards

<p><a class="checked-link" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/wcdumonts/12354986455/sizes/m/" style="text-decoration: none;">Mark Dumont/Flickr/CC BY 2.0</a></p>

There are fewer than 7,000 snow leopards scattered across the planet. Of these, an elusive 350 to 500 live in Nepal, spending their time prowling the heights of the Himalayas. Although many of these cats live in Annapurna Conservation Area, an almost 3,000-square-mile protected preserve, they are not free from conflict with humans.

(Land Rover Our Planet/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Nepalese residents who live near Annapurna, in response, have undertaken a campaign to conserve the snow leopard. A major source of strife between the Nepalese and the leopards stem from predation on livestock - such as the Chauri gai, a cross between a hill cow and a yak. But residents are now building protective sheds, rather than taking lethal retribution toward cats who are predatory by nature. Funds will also go toward compensating farmers who have lost animals to the leopards, as well as education to raise awareness, Nepalese news outlet Kantipur reports. It's a critical measure for the "dwindling number of the endangered snow leopard" in the area, says Sudip Adhikari, a wildlife management officer in the Manag area.

(Tambako the Jaguar/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Snow leopards are notoriously solitary animals, preferring to spread out over wide ranges. For nearly 50 years, there was no sign of leopards on the Nepalese half of Mount Everest until a photographer snapped a shot of a cat in 2005.

On the Tibetan side, camera traps recently captured 27 photos of the snow leopards - a heartening sight of the cats in habitats that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature notes run "along politically sensitive international borders."