Has the chilling threat of extinction worn off at last for the long-endangered snow leopard?
Not exactly – but the iconic big cats’ conservation status has been improved from “endangered” to “vulnerable”.
The decision was announced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the global standard for assessing extinction risk.
Experts have warned that the species still faces serious threats from poaching and habitat destruction.
The elegant yet elusive creatures, which live in the mountains of central Asia, were first listed as endangered by the IUCN in 1972.
The status change followed a three-year assessment process by five international experts.
Dr Tom McCarthy, who runs the Snow Leopard Programme at big cat charity Panthera, was one of them.
“To be considered ‘endangered,’ there must be fewer than 2,500 mature snow leopards and they must be experiencing a high rate of decline,” he explained.
“Both are now considered extremely unlikely, which is …