The beautiful and exotic snow leopard has been listed as 'endangered' since 1972, but a glimmer of hope is now peaking through for these embattled mountain cats. After a 3-year assessment of population decline rates, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has upgraded the status of the snow leopard to 'vulnerable.'
"The species still faces a high risk of extinction in the wild and is likely still declining," conservationist Tom McCarthy stated. "Just not at the rate previously thought." Snow leopards are heavily hunted for their thick skin and bones, leading to a rapidly decreasing adult population in the wild. While the world should still be extremely worried about the status of snow leopards, we can at least celebrate their new condition as a small victory in the fight for their survival.
Snow leopards are native to Central Asia, and are therefore considered important symbols of native culture in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and parts of Russia. Scroll down to celebrate this stunning feline in all of its glory, and vote for the photos that make you wish you could adopt one.