Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research (Jan 2020)

Is water an important resource for the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) in periods when terrain is covered with snow?

  • Dale M. Kikuchi,
  • Kubanychbek Zhumabai Uulu,
  • Koustubh Sharma,
  • Takuya Soma,
  • Kodzue Kinoshita

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 52, no. 1
pp. 105 – 108


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Some mammalian species that inhabit cold environments are known to eat snow to fulfill their water requirements. However, there is a potential trade-off between eating snow and drinking water because of the considerable energy that the body invests in warming the ingested snow. It is claimed that the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) eats snow to fulfill its requirement of water, which is why several researchers do not consider water as a limiting resource when developing resource selection functions. In this study, we placed camera traps along the unfrozen river banks in the Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary in Kyrgyz Republic from September 2018 to May 2019 with the objective of recording access to liquid water by animals during different times of the year. A snow leopard was recorded for the first time drinking water during winter when the entire ground surface was covered with snow. The animal drank water for nearly 58 seconds, indicating that the snow leopard preferred to drink liquid water as opposed to snow that was ubiquitously present. The observation has significant implications for snow leopard research and conservation strategies that tend to assume the nonrelevance of the availability of water to snow leopards.