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Climate Change And Catfight In The Himalayas: Tigers, Leopards Venture Into Snow Leopard Land

Conservationists have traditionally considered 'endangered' tigers the apex predators of Nepal's southern plains; 'vulnerable' leopards as reigning in the country's hill region; and 'vulnerable' snow leopards lording it further north in the mountains. Various studies have shown that climate change is increasingly pushing tigers and leopards further north in search of suitable habitat, encroaching on the territory of snow leopards.

Camera traps have recorded tigers at an elevation of more than 3,000 meters in eastern Nepal - well inside snow leopard land. Leopards have been photographed at altitudes as high as 5,400 m. Snow leopards are believed to live at an altitude of 3,000-5,000 m. In a head-to-head between the two lower-altitude cats, tigers have been known to displace leopards to the fringes of their habitat.

"However, we can say that as the snow leopard is weaker than the tiger, [the tiger] is likely to displace snow leopards if they do share a common habitat," he says. Kedar Baral, a conservationist who has studied the potential impact of climate change on the habitat and distribution of leopards, says interactions between them and snow leopards could become more common in a warmer world.

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