The snow leopard (''Panthera uncia'' syn. ''Uncia uncia'') is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. It is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because as of 2003, the size of the global population was estimated at 4,080–6,590 adults, of which fewer than 2,500 individuals may reproduce in the wild.
Drawing from the latest available data, the Global Snow Leopard and Eco-System Protection Program (GSLEP) uses an estimate of between 3,920 and 6,390 individuals in the wild.
Snow leopards inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from . In the northern range countries, they also occur at lower elevations.
Taxonomically, the snow leopard was classified as ''Uncia uncia'' since the early 1930s. Based on genotyping studies, the cat has been considered a member of the genus ''Panthera'' since 2008.〔 Two subspecies have been attributed, but genetic differences between the two have not been settled.〔
The snow leopard is the National Heritage Animal of Afghanistan and Pakistan.〔(【引用サイトリンク】publisher=Government of Pakistan )〕
==Naming and etymology==
Both the latinized genus name, ''Uncia'', and the occasional English name ''ounce'' are derived from the Old French ''once'', originally used for the European lynx. ''Once'' itself is believed to have arisen by back-formation from an earlier variant of ''lynx'', ''lonce'' – the "l" of ''lonce'' was construed as an abbreviated ''la'' ('the'), leaving ''once'' to be perceived as the animal's name. This, like the English version ''ounce'', came to be used for other lynx-sized cats, and eventually for the snow leopard.〔''Oxford English Dictionary'', Oxford University Press. 1933: Ounce〕
The snow leopard is also known in its native lands as "''wāwrīn pṛāng''" ((パシュトー語:واورين پړانګ)), "''shan''" (Ladakhi), "''zigsa''" (Tibetan), "''irves''" ((モンゴル語:ирвэс)), "''bars''" or "''barys''" ((カザフ語:барыс) (:ˈbɑrəs)), "''ilbirs''" (Kyrgyz: Илбирс), "''barfānī chītā''" (Hindi, Urdu: برفانی چیتا) and "''him tendua''" (Sanskrit, (ヒンディー語:हिम तेन्दुआ)).
According to the ''American Heritage Dictionary'', the origin of the word ''panthera'' is unknown. A folk etymology derives the word from the Greek πάν ''pan'' ("all") and ''thēr'' (beast of prey) because they can hunt and kill almost anything. It was proposed to have come ultimately into Greek from a Sanskrit word meaning "the yellowish animal" or "whitish-yellow". The Greek word πάνθηρ, ''pánthēr'', referred to all spotted felines generically.
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