From the BBC Environment and Science News
The first ever recorded video footage showing snow leopards and common leopards sharing the same habitat on the Tibetan plateau is causing concern among conservationists.
They are worried about the future of the snow leopard’s habitat if common leopards begin to live at higher elevations in a warming climate.
The issue will be high on the agenda of an international meeting involving 12 snow leopard range countries starting in Nepal on Tuesday, 17 January.
The video was recently obtained from a camera trap in Qinghai province in China. It shows both cats at the same location in July 2016.
One of the video clips from the camera trap shows a female common leopard with a cub. This has made researchers think that the animal was not simply visiting the area but was actually living there.
Snow leopards live at an altitude above 3,000m in typically open and rocky areas. Common leopards’ habitats include forests and woodlands at lower elevations.
Snow leopards are sparsely distributed across 12 countries: Mongolia and the Himalayan range in China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan, as well as in the five Central Asian states.
There are an estimated 3,500 to 7,000 snow leopards in the wild and are listed as endangered mainly due to poaching and habitat loss.
Scientists say the lower reaches of snow leopard’s habitats and the upper limits of common leopards’ territories have always overlapped in the Himalayas and other high mountains in Asia; but climate change could make that more complicated.
In Nepal’s Annapurna and Kanchanjunga conservation areas too, common leopards were recently found in altitudes that are normally snow leopard territory.
While some conservationists fear that there might be conflicts between the two leopard species for habitat and prey, others think the two already co-exist in places where their territories overlap.