The Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia),sometimes known as the ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia from Afghanistan to Lake Baikal and eastern Tibet. The taxonomic position of this species has been subject to change. In the past, many taxonomists included the Snow Leopard in the genus Panthera, with several of the other largest felids, but later it was placed in its own genus, Uncia. However, a recent molecular study places the species firmly within the genus Panthera, although the exact position remains unclear.3 Along with the Clouded Leopard, it represents an intermediate between so-called big cats and smaller species, as it cannot roar, despite possessing an incomplete ossification of the hyoid bone, which was thought to be essential in allowing the big cats to roar. However, new studies show that the ability to roar is due to other morphological features, especially of the larynx, which are absent in the Snow Leopard.4 Well known for its beautiful fur, the Snow Leopard has a whitish-tan coat with ringed spots of dark, ashy-brown and rosettes of black. Its tail is heavy with fur and the bottom of its paws are covered with fur for protection against snow and cold.
The life span of a Snow Leopard is normally 15–18 years, but in captivity they can live up to 20 years.
The total estimated wild population of the Snow Leopard is between 4,000 and 7,500 individuals (see table below). In addition, there are 600-700 animals in zoos around the world.