Snow leopards are rare and magnificent creatures that reside in the mountain ranges of South and Central Asia. These large cats dwell in the alpine and subalpine zones with elevations ranging from 9,800 to 14,800 ft (3,000 to 4,500 m). The large black rosettes that cover their white-gray coat match the rocky and steep mountains perfectly. Their thick hair act as insulation and their wide, fur-covered feet function as natural snowshoes. They have strong legs that can leap as far as 15 meters (50 feet) or about six times the length of their own body. Meanwhile, their long tails do not only help them balance, but it also serves as cozy blankets that protect their delicate body parts from extreme mountain weather.
For centuries, these majestic beings were the king of the mountains as it was abundantly-supplied with their prey, including hares, pikas, marmots, ibex, Argali wild sheep and blue sheep. They are usually seen in Mongolia, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and China — but their population is dropping. As of 2016, the World Wildlife Fund estimates their worldwide population to only 4,080 to 6,590 individuals. They were first listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species in 2003. The sole reason for this falling number is their one and only predator: humans who go hunting, participate in retaliatory killings and destroy their natural habitat.