Snow leopards spotted on top of world
Rare, resilient big cat makes comeback near Mount Everest
By Marsha Walton
Monday, May 23, 2005 Posted: 3:46 PM EDT (1946 GMT)
Doctoral student Som Ale photographed the endangered snow leopard on the southern slopes of Mount Everest.
(CNN) -- For the first time in more than 40 years, scientists have spotted the elegant and endangered snow leopard on the southern slopes of Mount Everest.
Doctoral student Som Ale photographed the animal October 24, 2004. He has been studying the animals for many years, both as a biology student at the University of Illinois at Chicago and as an investigator for the research and conservation group Earthwatch Institute.
"Snow leopard sightings are very, very rare," said Ale, who grew up in Nepal.
There are only an estimated 4,500 to 7,000 of these big cats left in the wild. But that population is spread across 12 countries and nearly 775,000 square miles. This habitat includes some of the most remote regions of the world, from Afghanistan, across the Himalayas, to Lake Baikal in south central Russia.