Monday, October 30, 2017

Snow Leopard

The snow leopard is an iconic animal species that I have loved from my youth. There was one on exhibit at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, in my youth, and the thought of seeing one in the wild, or even being where they are found, was beyond my dreams.
I was thrilled on our recent trip into Central Asia to be in the mountains where they live and to see statues and other evidences of their relevance to local culture. 

In Almaty, Kazakhstan we stayed in a hotel in the foothills of the Zailiyskiy Alatau Mountains,  part of the Tian Shan Mountain Range. They were white with recent snow.
Photo taken from the Royal Tulip Hotel in Almaty.
We took a bus into the mountains to see the Medeo ice skating rink and saw a number of statues of snow leopards along the route.

Canyon just below the Medeo ice skating rink. 
I asked our guide if she'd ever seen a snow leopard. She responded that she had, a number of years ago. She was up in these same mountains and looked down into a valley and saw a mother snow leopard and her two cubs. 

In downtown Almaty we visited Republic Square and stood at the base of the Golden Warrior Monument which features a golden warrior standing on the back of a winged snow leopard. It celebrates the independence of Kazakhstan.  
Golden Warrior Monument

The seal of Almaty, the 10,000 Tenge Kazakh note and a Kazakhstan stamp all feature the snow leopard.  
Seal of Almaty
Back of Tenge note
Kazakhstan stamp
In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan we took a bus 40 kms south into the Ala-Too mountains in Ala Archa National Park and there found a statue of a snow leopard just beyond the end of the road, covered in snow like the trees and mountains around it. Snow leopards are inhabitants of this park. 
The Ala-Too Mountains
The Ala-Archa River.
Statue of a snow leopard covered by snow at the end of a road into the park.
The city of Bishkek seal includes a stylized snow leopard.
City seal of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
It was fun to read that there was a Bishkek Declaration signed in Bishkek in 2013 by the leaders of the 12 countries that comprise the snow leopard's range (Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) agreeing that the snow leopard and the high mountain habitat it lives in need trans-boundary support to ensure a viable future for the snow leopard. A goal was developed to find and secure 20 healthy populations of snow leopards across its range by 2020 (many of these populations will cross international boundaries).  

Finally, the city seal of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, also includes the snow leopard.
City seal of Samarkand
This trip has raised my hopes that one day I may be able to see one of these magnificent animals in the wild. I loved our visit to the mountains of Central Asia and would love to spend more time there. 


  1. How cool is it to have the snow leopard as your national animal. I think this is part of the reason you like Kazakhstan so much.