Snow leopard captured on Inner Mongolia prairie, far outside normal range
Published: Sep 09, 2021 03:41 PM

Shuimo and Youhua, snow leopard twins at Xining Wildlife Zoo Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Shuimo and Youhua, snow leopard twins at Xining Wildlife Zoo Photo: Shan Jie/GT

A snow leopard found wandering on the prairie in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, was captured by local wildlife park officials for a health examination, reported Wednesday.

 The leopard was spotted on Sunday, wandering on the outskirts of Siziwang Banner in Ulan Qab county by a local shepherd, at a much lower altitude than the species' normal range of activity. Experts say that the unusual appearance is possibly due to a lack of experience hunting. 

"A local who was heading home with his herd of sheep came across the snow leopard. This was the first time that the local shepherd had seen such an animal here in his nearly 60 years of herding sheep," Dou Xilong, director at the Natural Park Service Center in Ulan Qab, told

Experts believe that the appearance of the snow leopard in such an area was only a coincidence, as those species is mainly active in colder environments such as "icy mountains or deserts" and rarely make appearances in grasslands at such a low altitude.

"This one may be ill, looking for food, or just simply lacking in wilderness survival experience," Sun Quanhui, a scientist with World Animal Protection, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Snow leopards mainly live in Central Asia, and move around on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Pamirs.

The animals were listed as national key protected species in 1989, and are also considered endangered species worldwide, said experts.

Statistics show their numbers have declined to around 2,500 in China, accounting for about one third of the world population. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that there are between 4,080-6,590 snow leopards around the world.

Sun said that it is still difficult to determine a "proper connection" between the animal's appearance and current ecological conditions, as this big cat "only appeared in the region by accident."

"Not all snow leopards can survive in such an unfamiliar environment. This rescued one was really lucky."

This is not the only rescue case for a big cat in 2021. Qi Xinzhang, deputy director of the Xining Wildlife Park and Qinghai Wildlife Rescue and Breeding Center, told the Global Times that his team rescued a snow leopard at a village in Menyuan county located on the east side of the Qilian Mountainsin March.

The witness said that the big cat had hit and broken a glass window and was "believed to have gotten a concussion, as it was too dizzy to react to approaching humans."