Biodiversity Science ›› 2019, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (9): 919-931.doi: 10.17520/biods.2019027

• Special Feature: Snow Leopards: Survey, Research and Conservation Status in China •     Next Article

Where and How many? The status of snow leopard (Panthera uncia) density surveys and knowledge gaps in China

Yanjiang Liu1, #, Xueyang Li1, #, Xuchang Liang2, Yanlin Liu3, Chen Cheng1, Juan Li4, Piaopiao Tang1, Huiyuan Qi5, Xiaoxing Bian2, Bing He6, Rui Xing7, Sheng Li1, Xiaogang Shi8, Chuangming Yang9, Yadong Xue10, Xinming Lian11, Awangjiumei 12, Xierannima 13, Dazhao Song3, Lingyun Xiao1, *(), Zhi Lü1, *()   

  1. 1 College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    2 Wildlife Conservation Society, Beijing 100101
    3 Chinese Felid Conversation Alliance, Beijing 101121
    4 University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3114, USA
    5 Faculty of Agriculture, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-8657, Japan
    6 World Wide Fund for Nature, Beijing 100037
    7 Wild Xinjiang, Urumqi 830000
    8 Wolong National Nature Reserve, Wenchuan, Sichuan 623006
    9 Gongga Mountain National Nature Reserve, Garzê, Sichuan 626000;
    10 Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing 100091
    11 Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008
    12 Plateau Nature Conservancy, Xining 810012
    13 People’s Government of Suojia Township, Zhiduo County, Yushu, Qinghai 815400
  • Received:2019-01-31 Accepted:2019-09-16 Online:2019-09-25
  • Yanjiang Liu,Xueyang Li,Lingyun Xiao,Zhi Lü;

The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is widely distributed across remote and difficult-to-traverse terrains. Thus, the main obstacle to snow leopard research is the lack of baseline data. Here, we retrieved all articles published in either Chinese or English that studied snow leopards in China from 1980 to 2018, and from these we identified 35 papers that reported on the distribution or density of snow leopards in their results sections. Eighteen of these included a density estimation. Additionally, we obtained unpublished snow leopard density survey data from 28 different areas. On this basis, we assessed the status of snow leopard surveys and data-deficient areas in each province. We found that the two areas most lacking data for the snow leopard distribution surveys exist in the West Tianshan Mountains bordering Kyrgyzstan and the Gangdisi-Nyenchenthanglha Mountains and the Himalayas in southern Tibet. Relative to the total area of ​​China’s snow leopard habitat, density surveys still only cover a small fraction of their habitat (1.7%), so these aggregation efforts are far from complete. Finally, because existing density surveys tend to explore relatively good snow leopard habitats, we must continue to expand survey efforts, especially across data-deficient areas.

Key words: snow leopard, China, distribution, density, data-deficient areas

Table 1

The proportion of snow leopard density survey area in total snow leopard habitat in each province of China"

Snow leopard habitat (km2)
Density survey area (km2)
Proportion of snow leopard habitat (%)
Literatures published on density surveys
Unpublished density surveys
新疆 Xinjiang 476,398 2,315 0.49 9 5
内蒙古 Inner Mongolia 21,762 0 0 0 0
甘肃 Gansu 105,815 4,300 4.06 1 8
青海 Qinghai 330,768 14,680 4.44 5 8
西藏 Tibet 660,798 4,503 0.68 2 8
云南 Yunnan 15,756 0 0 0 0
四川 Sichuan 160,366 4,578 2.85 1 4
全国 China 1,771,662 29,934 1.69 18 28

Fig. 1

Snow leopard distribution and density surveyed areas in China. The surveyed area in the Qilian Mountain National Park (Gansu part) is schematic due to lack of data."

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