Snow leopards mainly inhabit the Himalayas in central and southern Asia at an altitude of 2,500 to 4,500 meters. Credit: Goodnet.

Infrared cameras have captured images and videos of a snow leopard in the mountainous areas of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, local authorities said Tuesday.

The footage shows the latest images of the rare animal. In one of the photos, the snow leopard is seen facing the camera sideways. In the background, the main peak of Siguniang Mountain in Aba Tibet and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture is clearly visible, Xinhua reported.

In a one-minute video, the big cat is seen roaming, sniffing and leaving scent marks in the area.

The site where the snow leopard was captured is located in the Qionglai Mountains.

“The Qionglai Mountains, with Wolong National Nature Reserve as the center, is the region with the highest density of snow leopards in Sichuan. The leopard captured in the footage should belong to the same population as those captured in Wolong before,” said Li Sheng, a snow leopard expert and researcher with the School of Life Sciences at Peking University.

Previously, precious images of one mother snow leopard with three cubs were caught twice in Wolong in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Many other places nearby, including Shiqu, Xinlong, Baiyu and Kangding, have also repeatedly obtained images through infrared cameras, the report said.

The creature was even caught on camera at a spot only about 90 km away from the center of Chengdu. “That should be the closest snow leopard population discovered near a city that has a population of over 10 million,” said Li.

According to Li, the frequent appearance of snow leopards benefits from the indiscriminate protection of nature reserves.

“In Wolong, for example, there are not only snow leopards but also pandas. Pandas are forest species while snow leopards are alpine species. Although they do not interact with each other, they enjoy the same protection as ‘citizens’ of the reserve,” Li said.

Snow leopards are a Class A protected animal in China and are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They mainly inhabit the Himalayas in central and southern Asia at an altitude of 2,500 to 4,500 meters.

In China, they can be seen in the alpine areas in southwestern and northwestern regions including Tibet, Sichuan, Xinjiang, Gansu and Inner Mongolia.

“People used to focus mainly on the giant pandas in Sichuan, but the snow leopard as the flagship species of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau needs the same attention from the public,” said Li.

“Moreover, Sichuan is on the eastern edge of China’s snow leopard distribution area, where the snow leopard is far away from other populations, so the urgency of conservation is even greater.”

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